Thomas Clarence Jervay, Sr., former National Newspaper Publishers Association Chair and activist journalist, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina (NC), on November 30, 1914. He was one of eight children of Robert Smith Jervay from Charleston, South Carolina, and Mary Alice McNeil from Columbus County, NC. Thomas’s father established the R. S. Jervay Printing Company and the Cape Fear Journal, which became the Carolinian under his brother’s leadership.
During Jervay’s high school years at Williston Industrial High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, he was the editor of the Williston Echo. He delivered newspapers to customers for the family-owned Wilmington Journal after school and on weekends. He graduated from Williston in 1932. Afterward, he enrolled in Hampton Institute, Virginia, and was the first recipient of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Scholarship in 1932. After one year, he transferred to Howard University in Washington, DC. However, he received a Bachelor of Science from Virginia State College (now University) in Petersburg, Virginia. While attending the three academic institutions, Jervay wrote for their newspapers.
Upon graduating, Jervay became the Cape Fear Journal’s business manager and editor. He felt that the newspaper’s name was not fitting and changed it to the Wilmington Journal in 1945. In 1955, the Wilmington City Chapter initiated Jervay into the Gamma Kappa Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
T.C. Jervay Sr. was active in the civil rights movement. In 1973, he protested through his writings. He wrote an editorial that covered the trial extensively of the wrongful convictions of the Wilmington 10, nine Black men and one white woman, in connection with the 1971 firebombing of a Wilmington grocery store.
Jervay received numerous awards and accolades, including the Kellogg Foundation Tribute Award for his contributions to the community in journalism and the support of the United Negro College Fund. He also received recognition from the North Carolina Black Publishers Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Professional Society of Journalists.
Jervay was married to Willie Ether DeVane from Sampson, NC, and they had three children, one of whom, Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, would become editor and publisher of the Wilmington Journal until she died in 2021. Thomas Clarence Jervay, Sr. died on December 28, 1993, at age 79. In 2015, a walkway and plaza were named in honor of Jervay and his wife for their civil rights work, called the “Thomas and Willie E. Jervay Freedom Walk.”