Joan Murray

Obituary of Joan E Murray

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Joan Elizabeth Murray, who in her extraordinary life was the first African American female television news reporter in the United States, as well as an entrepreneur, small plane pilot, and writer, died on December 18, 2021 in Ithaca, New York. She was 84. She was born November 6, 1937 and raised in Ithaca, New York, alongside her twin sister, June, and younger sister Rythma Jane. In 1959, Joan was hired into the CBS Television Network Press Information Department. She was involved in publicity for such events as Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev's visit to America, the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the premiere of CBS News with Walter Cronkite, and Jacqueline Onassis's televised White House tour. Joan also served as a production assistant on TV program Candid Camera, and was later promoted to CBS's Corporate Affairs staff. During the 1960s, Joan appeared in a number of television and print advertisements and starred with her twin sister in the first advertising campaign specifically targeted at an African American audience. Joan left CBS in 1963 for a job as a writer and on-air commentator for the NBC television program, Women on the Move. She was subsequently hired again at CBS as an on-air news correspondent and also appeared on public affairs programs Two at One and Opportunity Line. With her new job, Joan became the first female African American television news reporter and anchorwoman in the United States. Her life included a string of “firsts” and awards including the Mademoiselle Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Urban League’s Certificate of Merit, and awards from the National Council of Negro Women. An accomplished aviator, she was the first African American woman pilot to participate in the famed Woman's Air Derby and served as the official WCBS-TV news reporter for the race. Her appearance on the panel for the “classic” CBS program What’s My Line? was also notable. During this period she even interviewed The Beatles. In 1968 Joan published her book, The News, an autobiography and guide to television news reporting. Continuing to write, the following year she authored recommendations to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller's Committee on Employment of Minority Groups and Women in the News Media. In 1969, Joan co-founded Zebra Associates Inc., an advertising and marketing firm that focused on Black, Hispanic, and other consumer markets. The firm was the largest Black-owned and managed advertising agency at the time, and worked with Fortune 50 companies and numerous national advertisers. Joan began work with the United States Department of State in the early 1970s, where she reviewed and recommended films for distribution in Africa. While there, Joan embarked on an international lecture tour of Africa for the Department. In the late 1970s, Joan was asked to assist in opening Western Park Hospital Medical Center, a new trauma facility in Los Angeles, California and served as its Director of Public Relations and Media/Communications. In 1980, Joan was married to Richard L. Atkins, a real estate developer in Los Angeles, and operated a fragrance and skin care boutique in Beverly Hills. After retiring to Ithaca, she donated her archival materials to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, New York City. At heart, she always remained the consummate news woman whose relationships and interviews included high society, the Wall Street elite, government officials, entertainment stars, and the major luminaries of the civil rights movement. Joan leaves her loving memory to her sister Rythma Jane and her nephew Ray Wall. Joan joins her twin sister June, and her beloved mother Amanda Pearl Murray and father Isaiah Murray.
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Joan Murray

In Loving Memory

Joan Murray

1937 - 2021

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