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Pioneering journalist George W. Collins dies

George W. Collins, a pioneering Baltimore journalist who chronicled the civil rights movement and other significant events in Maryland history, died last week at age 88.

Collins began his career as a reporter and then editor-in-chief for Baltimore's Afro-American in the 1950s, and joined the staff of WMAR-TV in 1968, later becoming an anchor and an associate editor. He also hosted a biweekly public-affairs show Thursday evenings on WEAA-FM, Morgan State University's public radio station.

He died on July 31 at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, his family said.

Jamie Costello, an anchor with WMAR, said on the air that the station "lost one of the greats."

"We can still hear that booming voice of his and feel that strong handshake," Costello said. "He made you feel like you were the only one in the room and like you were his best friend."

In 1961, Collins and two other Afro reporters pretended to be African diplomats in a prank designed to draw attention to how many restaurants and hotels would not serve black people. The Kennedy Administration had made it clear that African diplomats should be served, but some establishments still would not serve black Americans.

The Library of America, a non-profit publisher, selected in 2003 two Collins articles from the Afro-American for inclusion in Reporting Civil Rights, an anthology of the best work from 1941 to 1973. It included a story from 1963 in which students and activists were protesting to end segregation in the Eastern Shore town of Cambridge, which turned violent after business owners fired upon the protesters.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

 cwells@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cwellssun

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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