Author, University journalism professor dies at age 95

by Latasha Webb

J. Edward Gerald, a University journalism professor from 1946 to 1974, died at his home July 18 at age 95.

Gerald is the author of several books and was involved in the development of mass media and journalism since the 1940s.

His book on media law, “The Press and the Constitution, 1931-1947,” won the 1948 Society of Professional Journalism award for research in journalism.

His 1963 book, “The Social Responsibility of the Press,” became a standard for media criticism and ethics, according to a journalism school press release.

And in 1970, Gerald helped found the Minnesota News Council, which monitors media ethics violations. It was the United States’ first media council.

Gerald was a member of the Association for Education in Journalism for many years and served as vice president and president in 1951 and 1952, respectively.

“He was always a critic of the media,” said Donald Gillmor, an emeritus professor and former student of Gerald’s. “He was so focused.”

In addition to writing articles and contributing to books, Gerald also penned two more books, “The British Press Under Government Economic Controls” and “News of Crime in Courts and Press Conflict,” written after his retirement.

“He was a major influence in the field of scholarship, in mass communications…in journalism,” Gillmor said.

“He was interested in the United States Constitution … the economics of the newspaper industry … the relation of the press and the courts,” Gillmor said.

Gerald was born May 6, 1906, in Evant, Texas, and began his career as a journalism student at the University of Missouri.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s he earned his master’s degree in Missouri and worked as a copy editor at the St. Louis Star Times.

He arrived in Minnesota in 1946 and completed a doctorate in political science while teaching at the University.

“He was a quiet and thoughtful man,” said Burton Paulu, former student, University professor and director of KUOM radio. “He had a good time.”

“He could be intimidating,” Gillmor said of Gerald’s teaching style. “In a lot of ways (he was) a severe person. But I followed in his footsteps. It seemed natural for me to keep in touch.”

Gerald is survived by his wife Opal; two children, James Edward Gerald III and Patricia Gerald Bourne; and a granddaughter, Jane Bourne, at Harvard University.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Latasha Webb welcomes comments at [email protected]