Justine Tyrrell, class of 1943

Justine Tyrrell was born in 1921 in Rhode Island, the second of six children. After receiving a scholarship for her straight-A average at Pawtucket High School, Tyrrell joined the Pembroke College Class of 1943, where she received an A.B. in English. Following graduation, Tyrrell was a cryptanalyst for the Army Security Agency in Washington, DC. From 1954 until 1961, she was executive director of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, which gave educational grants to minority students. In 1961 she became the only white reporter for New York Amsterdam News, the United States’ oldest black newspaper, where she wrote under the name Gertude Wilson, until leaving in 1972. For a short time, Tyrrell worked in the development office for Norwich University in Vermont and in 1979 she and her husband moved to Martha’s Vineyard.While on Martha’s Vineyard, Tyrrell and her son Arthur founded the real estate firm, Priestley, Smadbeck & Mone. She died on August 4, 2004, at the age of 83, and a collection of her columns from New York Amsterdam News was posthumously published in 2005 under the title By Gertrude Wilson: Dispatches of the 1960s from a White Writer in a Black World.

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