Canada’s first Black national news anchor, George Elroy Boyd, has died at age 68 at a hospice in Montreal.
Boyd, who was born in Halifax, was one of the original anchors on CBC Newsworld, a 24-hour news channel that launched in 1989.
“We’ve got it, it’s there. The product is there and all we have to do now is work harder to better what we have now,” Boyd said in a news piece on the glitchy launch of the channel that originally aired July 31, 1989.
David Pate, who was the foreign correspondent at Newsworld at the time, said he got to know Boyd leading up to the launch. Pate said Boyd was a humble man who didn’t speak much about his previous accomplishments.
“He wasn’t there trying to be a groundbreaking person — even if he was — that wasn’t what he was doing. He was just somebody who had his own path that he was following … and he was certainly not in any way boastful or telling people he done these things,” Pate said.
Pate said Boyd had a passion for storytelling at Newsworld that went beyond TV news.
His obituary, published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald on Saturday, says he enrolled in the broadcasting program at the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology after studying at Saint Mary’s University.
After Boyd left broadcasting in the 1990s, he turned his attention to writing, about which he was passionate.
“George has written for radio, television, motion pictures, and also became a songwriter for his radio play, God is My Warden [title song],” his obituary said.
“With his debut play, Shine Boy (1988), George became the first Indigenous African-Nova Scotian to have a play professionally produced on the main stage of Halifax’s Neptune Theatre.”
He’ll be missed. I’m happy that his voice lives on through his work.– Thom Fitzgerald, director of The Gospel According to the Blues
The obituary noted Boyd was appointed writer-in association with Neptune Theatre in 1995. His play, Consecrated Ground, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award for drama in 2000.
Another of his plays, Wade in the Water, was nominated for a Montreal English Critics Circle Award in 2005.
His play, Gideon’s Blues, was adapted into an hour-long TV drama, The Gospel According to the Blues, in 2010 by Thom Fitzgerald, American-Canadian film director.
“George was a brilliant writer, a very intelligent man and a very passionate artist with a vision and I felt like his play was unique and bold with a valuable perspective,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said he and Boyd worked closely together while adapting the play.
“George was very effusive and opinionated and he had a real passion for telling stories of his community,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he and Boyd stayed in touch for many years and his death is a big loss to the Montreal and Halifax communities.
“He’ll be missed,” he said. “I’m happy that his voice lives on through his work.”
Boyd was also invited to be a writer-in residence at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ont. He represented Canada at the Rafi Peer Theatre Festival in Lahore, Pakistan.
Boyd has received an honorary diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College in 1998 and an Atlantic Journalism Award in 1988.
Boyd died on July 7 at the Mont Sinai Hospice in Montreal. A graveside service is scheduled for Boyd on Monday. There will be no reception because of COVID-19.