DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, the third-generation editor and publisher of a historic Black newspaper in North Carolina and a driving force behind the pardons of the Wilmington 10, has died. She was 78.
Thatch died Tuesday at Duke University Hospital in Durham, but a cause of death was not available, according to her cousin, Paul R. Jervay Jr., who considered her a “human dynamo.”
Thatch was the daughter of Thomas C. Jervay Sr., the publisher of The Wilmington Journal. Her grandfather, printer R.S. Jervay, started the newspaper as the Cape Fear Journal in 1927, decades after a mob of white supremacists burned The Daily Record, the African American newspaper, to the ground in the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.
Thatch’s father was an activist-journalist with his “heart and soul” devoted to the community, Jervay said Wednesday. Thatch carried on her father’s legacy when she succeeded him in 1996. She took on the fight for pardons for the Wilmington 10, nine Black men and one white woman wrongly convicted for the 1971 firebombing of a grocery store.
In 2012, outgoing Gov. Beverly Perdue issued pardons of innocence for the group. Thatch, who had urged the National Newspaper Publishers Association to advocate for the pardons, was named the organization’s journalist of the year in 2013.
“We will always fervently uphold her legacy and contribution to the Black Press of America and especially her leadership of the North Carolina Black Publishers Association (NCBPA). God bless,” Ben Chavis, one of the Wilmington 10 and now NNPA president, said in a statement.
The pardons were Thatch’s major accomplishment on the national stage, but on the local level, she made the newspaper a reflection of Wilmington’s African American community.
“She had a knack for organization toward a purpose,” Jervay said.
Thatch was the president of the North Carolina Black Publishers Association at the time of her death and her “energy and foresight” made that organization what it is today, said Jervay, who handles media services for the NCBPA.
To her family, she was welcoming, even when you found yourself in an unfortunate situation.
“She was always glad to see you, regardless of where you were in life,” Jervay said. “She was the first one there to help. She was totally family oriented.”