Ray Jenkins, Newspaperman Who Covered Civil Rights Era, Dies at 89

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By then he had already won a Pulitzer Prize as a young journalist in the South, served as editorial page editor of The Baltimore Evening Sun, been named a Nieman fellow at Harvard and worked for two years as a press aide to President Jimmy Carter.

While living in Montgomery, Ala., where The Journal was based, Mr. Jenkins covered the civil rights movement and developed a close relationship with Dr. King, then pastor of the city’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Nancy Jenkins-Chafin, Mr. Jenkins’s daughter, said in a phone interview that the two had spoken regularly in the church’s basement and that Mr. Jenkins had written often about Dr. King’s vision and mission.

“My father’s coverage may have helped to change hearts and minds of Southerners who had been living for generations in a deeply segregated society,” she said.

In one of their discussions, recalled by Mr. Jenkins in a column he wrote years later, Dr. King marveled that he, a descendant of slaves, was sitting and talking with Mr. Jenkins, a descendant of slave owners.

Mr. Jenkins asked Dr. King if he might include that thought in a speech some day. Dr. King did, in his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington in 1963.

“I have a dream,” Dr. King said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “that one day on the Red Hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Carrell Ray Jenkins was born on Sept. 25, 1930, in Sylvester, Ga., about 200 miles south of Atlanta. His mother, Eunice (Thornton) Jenkins, was a homemaker, and his father, Herbert, sold tractors for International Harvester while also farming cotton, corn and tobacco.


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