Monday, February 27, 2012

27 February 1942: Charlayne Hunter-Gault Is Born

On this day 70 years ago, in Due West, South Carolina, Charlayne Hunter-Gault was born to Althea Ruth and Charles S. H. Hunter, Jr. Her father's position as an Army chaplain caused the family to move frequently, so Charlayne and her younger brothers Henry and Franklyn, spent much of their childhoods living with their maternal grandmother in Covington and Atlanta, Georgia.

Charlayne attended Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta, where she graduated 3rd in her class in 1959. That year, she and class valedictorian Hamilton Holmes were approached by local civil rights leaders who wanted to challenge Georgia's segregated system of higher education. Both Charlayne and Hamilton applied to the  University of Georgia in 1959 and were denied admission based on their race. 

In Fall of 1959, Charlayne Hunter enrolled at Fort Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and she and Hamilton Holmes continued to apply to UGA every quarter, with their attorneys in Atlanta challenging their denied admission in court. In January of 1961, Judge William Bootle ruled that Holmes and Hunter were qualified to attend UGA, and therefore entitled to be admitted to the University. Three days later, both students enrolled at UGA, becoming the first African-American students to attend the school.

In 1963, Charlayne Hunter graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism, and took a job as an editorial assistant at the New Yorker magazine. She would later work as a reporter and anchor for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. In 1968, she joined the New York Times, and while there, married Ronald Gault. She left the Times in 1978 to be a national correspondent for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report on Public Television. In 1992, she wrote a memoir, In My Place.

In 1997, her husband was transferred to South Africa, and Hunter-Gault left PBS to become the Africa correspondent for National Public Radio. From 1999 to 2005, she was CNN's Africa correspondent, and still occasionally files reports for NPR. In 2006, she published New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance. She currently contributes to

Over her career, Charlayne Hunter-Gault has received more than two dozen honorary degrees and earned many journalism awards. She's won the New York Times' Publisher Award, the National Urban Coalition Award for Distinguished Urban Reporting, two National News and Documentary Emmy awards, and two Peabody awards.

Despite her experiences as a student at the University of Georgia, Hunter-Gault has stayed involved with her alma mater. In 1985, as part of UGA's Bicentennial Celebration, the Holmes-Hunter Lecture was created, and has been held annually ever since, focusing "on race relations, black history, and education with implications for inclusion and diversity." In 1988, Charlayne Hunter-Gault became the first African-American invited to speak at UGA commencement, 25 years after her own graduation.

In 2001, as part of the celebration of 40 years since desegregation, the Academic Building on North Campus was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building. In 2007, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence chair was created in the Grady College of Journalism, and in 2011, Hunter-Gault donated her papers to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.

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