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Elizabeth Murphy Moss, 81, Afro reporter and editor


Elizabeth Murphy Moss, a former reporter, editor and publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper who served the Baltimore school board, died yesterday after a lengthy illness at Mercy Medical Center. She was 81 and lived in the Forest Park section of Baltimore.

Mrs. Moss came from a newspaper family and spent most of her life working for the Afro-American.

Her grandfather, John H. Murphy Sr., founded the Afro and her father, Carl Murphy, ran the newspaper for more than 40 years.

Her mother was Vashti Turley Murphy, a co-founder of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the largest African-American sorority in the world.

The eldest of five daughters, Mrs. Moss graduated from Douglass High School and studied journalism at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a bachelor's degree.

She had started her career at the Afro as a child of about 10, helping sell and deliver the newspaper, according to relatives.

As a journalist, she worked as a reporter, editor and columnist, becoming a mentor to many African-American reporters who went on to work for other newspapers, including The Sun, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

She was a major stockholder of the newspaper, which published her column, "If You Ask Me," that documented births, wedding anniversaries and personal achievements of African-Americans.

Her last column ran a week ago.

"She was a remarkably talented, caring and energetic news person. She reached out to individuals and touched people," said Moses J. Newson, who was hired by Mrs. Moss in 1957 and worked with her for 21 years.

During World War II, she worked as a war correspondent, covering the European Theater from London.

She wrote a book, "Be Strong, The Life of Vashti Turley Murphy," which was published in 1980.

Her first husband, Frank W. Phillips Jr., died in 1962.

She married Alonzo Paul Moss in 1963.

She was the first African-American woman to serve on the Baltimore school board, appointed to a six-year term in 1960 by Mayor J. Harold Grady. She was reappointed in 1966 and served with Larry S. Gibson, a political confidant of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

She used her position on the board to fight for better educational programs for African-American students, stronger vocational programs and the appointment of more African-Americans as school administrators.

She also was a member of the board of trustees of the Community College of Baltimore and was appointed by Gov. Marvin Mandel to the Maryland Bicentennial Commission.

Over the years, Mrs. Moss was honored by a number of journalism organizations for her contributions to the community.

Morgan State University awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1976.

She was a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and belonged to several other service and community organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the Philomathians, We Wives, The Chums and the Couples Club.

She is survived by her husband; two daughters, the Rev. Marie Murphy Phillips Braxton of Baltimore and Rachael Murphy Humphrey of Atlanta; two sons, Benjamin Murphy Phillips IV of Washington and Michael A. Moss of Madison, Wis.; and two sisters, Frances Murphy II of Washington and Carlita Murphy Jones of Buffalo, N.Y.

Services will be at noon Saturday at St. James Episcopal Church, 1020 W. Lafayette Ave.

Pub Date: 4/08/98

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