John worked just about all of his life at the Afro,” said Camay Calloway Murphy, his second wife. She said he knew the business end from college but also was comfortable in every step of production, working with newspaper boys to editors at the paper during his career.
Mr. Murphy was named president of the Afro-American Newspapers, which published a national edition and local versions in several East Coast and Southern cities, in 1967, succeeding his uncle Carl J. Murphy. He became board chairman and publisher in 1974.
His wife said that her husband was heavily involved in the community. “He felt very strongly that with knowledge of what was going on, he could bring black people into the mainstream of things,” his wife said.
She said Mr. Murphy examined the features of white-oriented newspapers, and tailored them to attract middle-class black readers from Washington and Baltimore. Among his initiatives was a weekly insert to attract more advertising. The supplement, Dawn magazine, allowed the paper to continue when many black newspapers went out of business.
Mr. Murphy retired as the company’s chairman of the board in 1986.