Journalist Mary Alice Jervay Thatch was persistent, dedicated, and influential throughout her extensive career. Born on July 6, 1943, Thatch was a third-generation editor and publisher of The Wilmington Journal, closely following the steps of her father and grandfather.
In 1927, Thatch’s grandfather, Mr. Robert S. Jervay, founded The Cape Fear Journal, which is what is now The Wilmington Journal—renamed in the 1940s by Thatch’s father, Thomas C. Jervay. This Black-owned newspaper provides a place for Black voices and stories to be told. They have successfully done this over decades, reporting informative news to educate the public and all that read about actual events and issues about the Black community in Wilmington and eastern North Carolina.
Thatch earned her bachelor’s degree in business education from Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU located in that city in North Carolina. She also has a master’s degree in business education from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Throughout her career, Thatch vigorously worked behind the scenes to ensure many significant newsbreaking stories were released despite the racist backlash and anathema the newspaper endured over the years.
Thatch made numerous innovations throughout her career as the publisher of The Wilmington Journal, continuing the legacy and family business that still thrives today. Focusing on the importance of telling the truth about real stories in real time, she set the stage for significant milestones for The Wilmington Journal, such as her demand to pressure the then Governor of North Carolina, Robert W. Scott, to intervene in the 1971 Wilmington 10 trial. Here, nine Black men, including most prominently, Rev. Benjamin Chavis, an activist who would eventually head the national NAACP, and a White woman, were convicted of using dynamite to bomb a White-owned Wilmington grocery store, ultimately being charged with arson and conspiracy.
Thatch used the Wilmington Journal as a platform to rally a defense of the Wilmington 10 by thoroughly researching the facts of the case. Through her efforts, thousands of supporters of the Wilmington 10 across the U.S. and worldwide demanded their release. Decades later, in 2012, the Wilmington 10 were pardoned for their alleged crimes and were released from prison. Yet, without the overwhelming pressure from The Wilmington Journal and other media outlets, as well as the local and national civil rights community, their innocence was eventually proven.
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch died on December 28, 2021, at the age of 78. Her spirit and dedication to truth and her impact on racial justice live on through the pages of The Wilmington Journal.