Ralph McGill

Ralph McGill (1898–1969) was arguably Georgia’s most influential journalist of the twentieth century. During forty years at the Atlanta Constitution as an editor, publisher, and daily columnist, he built a national following as a white Southern editor who questioned segregation and challenged the demagogues who exploited it. His journalistic courage earned McGill a reputation as “the conscience of the South.” He began working at the Atlanta Constitution in 1938 and in 1942 was named editor-in-chief. By the late 1940s, McGill’s columns appeared regularly in national magazines such as Saturday Review, Saturday Evening Post, New Republic, and Atlantic Monthly, and in 1957 McGill increased his national reach when a syndicate began circulating his column to hundreds of newspapers. He won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and the prize committee singled out his piece “A Church, a School” for special mention. Then, for McGill’s having “courageously sounded the voice of reason, moderation, and progress during a period of contemporary revolution,” President Lyndon Johnson honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. (Inducted in 2004)