Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, a progressive newspaper publisher in North Carolina who led the fight to exonerate the Wilmington 10, passed away on Dec. 28 at a hospital in Durham, N.C, the New York Times reported. She was 78 years old.
Johanna Thatch-Briggs, her daughter, confirmed her mother’s passing. No cause of death was given.
Before becoming a third-generation newspaper publisher, Thatch worked as an educator. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Elizabeth City State University and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She then worked as a high school teacher in North Carolina and Ohio and then with the North Carolina State government as a consultant.
In 1996, she succeeded her father, Thomas C. Jervay, at The Wilmington Journal. Like her father and grandfather R.S Jervay who established the newspaper in 1927, Thatch used the power and influence of journalism to shed light on the injustices that were happening to Black people.
“Being a part of the Black press and knowing that there’s strength in the press, knowing that there’s strength in that pen, I was compelled to fight for justice,” she said in an interview.
“She was particularly committed to making sure that news that often is not represented in the mainstream media was always represented in The Wilmington Journal,” the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a civil rights leader, said in a phone interview.
Throughout her renowned career as a publisher, Thatch exposed corruption, the gentrification of Black neighborhoods, fought for voting rights and education reform. Arguably, she is best known for helping the Wilmington 10 receive a full pardon.
With Thatch’s leadership, the Wilmington Journal became one of the most renowned Black newspapers in the South, highly regarded for its boldness in uncovering racism despite being threatened with violence.
For her trailblazing work in journalism, the National Newspaper Publishers Association named her the publisher of the year in 2013.
Thatch is survived by her husband Pastor John L. Thatch, Johanna Thatch-Briggs, and two other daughters, Shawn Thatch and Robin Thatch Johnson; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
We offer our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mary Alice Thatch.