A true warrior for justice and equality has been called home. Mary Alice Jervay Thatch passed Tuesday December 28, 2021. She was the editor and publisher of the Wilmington Journal Newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina following in the footsteps of her father. Funeral services will be conducted on Wednesday 1p.m. at Good Hope Baptist Church in Knightdale, North Carolina. Interment will be in Carolina Biblical Gardens in Raleigh, N.C.
RALEIGH —Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, a true warrior for equality and justice, was called from labor to reward on Dec. 28, 2021 at Duke University Hospital in Durham.
Her early religious affiliation was with the St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Wilmington and she received her initial educational training in the Wilmington and New Hanover County school system. She received her bachelor's degree in business education from Elizabeth City State University, cum laude, and master's degree from UNC Greensboro. Further studies were done at Ohio State University.
Mrs. Thatch was editor and publisher of the Wilmington Journal newspaper in Wilmington since 1996, following in the footsteps of her father and the Jervay Family, who have owned and operated for over 100 years. Under her leadership the paper continued its tradition of being a strong voice for Wilmington's African American community, and across southeastern North Carolina.
However, it was in 2011 when she convinced the National Newspaper Publishers Association, of which she was a member and her father formerly had led, to advocate for North Carolina to pardon the Wilmington Ten, the 10 North Carolina civil rights activists falsely convicted of firebombing a white-owned grocery store in 1971. All 10, including the leader, Rev. Ben Chavis, were sentence to over 200 years in prison and had spent the last 40 years with the false convictions attached to their names.
In 2012, she led a team of Black journalists, attorneys and activists in uncovering proof that the Ten were originally framed. She also led a campaign that garnered over 150,000 petition signatures asking the Gov. Beverly Perdue to grant pardons of innocence to the Ten.
On Dec. 31, 2012, as the last thing she did leaving office, Gov. Perdue indeed issued 10 pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten, thus clearing their names. The official act cleared their names and made worldwide news. However, it all started with the unmatched determination of a single Black newspaper publisher. Mary Alice Thatch was honored as Publisher of the Year by the NNPA the following year in the finest tradition of Black Press advocacy.
She was a life member of the NAACP; member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Wilmington Chapter of Links Inc., a service organization; and a strong advocate for housing in New Hanover County and Southeastern North Carolina.
Mrs. Thatch along with Rev. Ben Chavis hosted the documentary film "Pardon of Innocence" at the Historic Carolina Civic Center in Lumberton in February of 2018, at which time two Black pioneers were recognized, the late Maude Humphrey Blount and the late Lawrence Stephens.
Funeral Services were held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at New Hope Baptist Church in Knightdale. Interment was in Carolina Biblical Garden in Raleigh.
Surviving is her husband, Rev. John L. Thatch; three daughters, Robin Thatch Johnson, Shawn J. Thatch, and Johanna Thatch-Briggs; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandchild, DeShaury Allen of Lumberton.
For additional information, contact McMillan Funeral Home of Lumberton, N.C.