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Gerald Boyd, who began work as a teenage grocery bagger in St. Louis and rose to become managing editor of The New York Times, then was forced to resign in a newsroom revolt after a young reporter was exposed as a fabricator, died Thursday, November 23rd in Manhattan. He was 56.  

The cause was complications from lung cancer, said his wife, Robin Stone. Boyd had kept his illness from most friends and colleagues.

Boyd’s career, which took him from the end of the civil rights era to the beginning of the Internet era, was built on competitiveness and a determination to get the story right. As he rose in prominence, he became a beacon of possibility for aspiring black journalists.

Giving a lecture in honor of one of his early editors in St. Louis a few years ago, he told the hometown audience, "Throughout my life I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and like many minorities and women who succeed, I've often felt alone."

He was, in fact, the first black journalist to serve in many of the jobs he held at The Times, including metropolitan editor and managing editor. At 28, he was also the youngest journalist chosen for a prestigious Nieman fellowship at Harvard.

After covering the first Bush administration for The Times, Boyd was elevated to the editing ranks by Max Frankel, The Times's executive editor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was given a variety of editing responsibilities before being named metropolitan editor.

Boyd went on to lead coverage that won the newspaper three Pulitzers: for articles about the first World Trade Center bombing, for a series on children of poverty, and for a series on the complexities of race relations in the United States. He also shared the leadership of The Times during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, coverage that earned six Pulitzer prizes.

During his steady advance up management ranks in the 1990s, he put some colleagues off with his occasional irascibility and brusqueness. But he won the respect of many others for his determination to beat the competition, both by publishing scoops and by providing comprehensive coverage.

"Gerald was always very demanding," Morgan said. "He just had very definite ideas about how he thought things should be, and how they related to him. He always wanted to control things."

The reversal of Boyd’sfortunes came in June 2003, when he and Howell Raines, the paper's executive editor, resigned after revelations of fabrications and plagiarism by a young reporter, Jayson Blair, ignited a firestorm of newsroom criticism against their management.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement: "Gerald was a newsman. He knew how to mobilize a reporting team and surround a story so that nothing important was missed. He knew how to motivate and inspire.

"And, tough and demanding as he could be, he had a huge heart. He left the paper under sad circumstances, but despite all of that he left behind a great reservoir of respect and affection."

George Curry, a colleague of Boyd’s at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the 1970s, said, "When Gerald came out of college he always talked about being the editor of The New York Times. That was his single most important goal. To get the position and have it blow up was extremely disappointing. It was what he always wanted to do."

Gerald Michael Boyd was born in St. Louis in 1950; his mother, who had sickle cell anemia, died when he was a small child. His father, a delivery truck driver and an alcoholic, moved to New York and played little role in his childhood.

Boyd and his older brother, Gary, were raised by their paternal grandmother, who was also raising their two cousins. Their younger sister, Ruth, was raised by their maternal grandmother in California.

Courtesy of BlackProfessionalEvents.com

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