A Major Journalist Named Bill Minor

Documentary Eyes on Mississippi screens Feb. 25 at Vanderbilt University.

EyesonMississippiPosterAt age 93, Bill Minor still writes. His latest column, in today’s edition of Mississippi newspaper The Clarion-Ledger, is about a new biography of a Louisiana politician, written by a Dutch scholar.

But on Feb. 25, the biographical focus will once again be on Minor himself. The documentary Eyes on Mississippi, which takes its name from the title of Minor’s former column and documents the journalist’s coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, will screen at Vanderbilt University’s John Seigenthaler Center. From a write-up of one of Minor’s most recent birthday parties:

A Louisiana native, Minor covered one of the South’s most colorful characters and politicians, “Uncle” Earl Long, in the Pelican state but found his true calling when he set up shop as the New Orleans Times-Picayune correspondent in neighboring Mississippi in 1947. His first story at the bureau was the funeral of Mississippi’s notoriously racist U.S. Sen. and former governor Theodore Bilbo.

Over the next six decades, Minor covered every conceivable story in a state that made headlines throughout much of the civil rights movement. He covered the rise of the Dixiecrats in the 1948 presidential election, the trial of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant for the murder of 14-year-old black youth Emmett Till in 1955, James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962, the murder of activist Medgar Evers in 1963, the “long, hot summer” of 1964 when three civil rights activists were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

The documentary was directed by Ellen Ann Fentress, a journalist who has written for The New York Times and Newsweek. There’s some symmetry in that, because Minor also contributed to those two publications during his long run. More info on next week’s event here.