Ralph McGill

Ralph McGill

Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Ralph McGill by President Lyndon Johnson, 1964

Ralph McGill was the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Atlanta Constitution. After working as sports editor for the Nashville Banner, McGill moved to Atlanta in 1929 to become assistant sports editor of the Constitution. Shifting from sports to news in the 1930s, McGill’s coverage of serious events led to his promotion to executive editor in 1938. 

McGill used his position to highlight the effects of segregation, earning him the nickname “Conscience of the South.” For much of his career, McGill was a lone voice, breaking the white code of polite silence about racial discrimination and segregation. Angered readers sent threats to McGill, some burning crosses on his lawn at night and firing bullets into his home.

Ralph McGill in his office at the Atlanta Constitution, ca. 1960.

In 1959, McGill was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the Atlanta Temple bombing and on hate crimes by the Ku Klux Klan. By this time, he had become a syndicated columnist, reaching a national audience. After his elevation to publisher of the Constitution in 1960, McGill continued to write daily, amassing more than 10,000 columns by the time of his death in February 1969.

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