Marvin Edwin Sykes was born on November 9, 1915, in Hobbsville, North Carolina. He and his family later moved to Greensboro, and Sykes graduated from Curry High School in 1932. He was one of the first men to attend The Woman's College of The University of North Carolina (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) when the school’s financial struggles forced it to admit males for the 1932-1933 academic year. Sykes transferred to Guilford College, where he was business manager of the Guilfordian and a correspondent for the Greensboro Daily News.
Following graduation in 1936, he worked for a year at Pilot Life Insurance Company and then enrolled at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Sykes graduated in 1938 and returned to Greensboro, where he was hired by the morning paper, the Greensboro Daily News. In 1942, Sykes left the paper to serve in the Sixth Naval District Intelligence Office in South Carolina and was later stationed on the USS Lamberton in Honolulu, Hawaii, as communications officer. Sykes returned to Greensboro in 1946 and served as police and city hall reporter, assistant city editor, garden columnist, and business editor for the afternoon paper, the Greensboro Record.
Sykes’ most celebrated work includes the February 2, 1960 story reporting the Woolworth’s sit-in, which ran on the front page of the paper’s local section. Sykes also covered the transformation of the Woodmere Park neighborhood from predominantly white to African American; the story won a state press association award.
Sykes retired from the Record in 1967 and became the executive director of the Guilford County Better Business Bureau, where he worked from 1968 until 1971. In 1972, Sykes joined First Mortgage Insurance Co., (which became United Guaranty) and he retired as vice president in 1981. Marvin E. Sykes died on April 29, 2004 in Greensboro, at the age of 88.