Using his little daily paper to battle for equality before the law and an end to the mistreatment of black people, Hodding Carter took on the power structure of the state of Mississippi. Castigated by politicians, denounced by his fellow editors, threatened with economic reprisal and physical violence, he drew the wrath of everyone from the country club to the crossroads store. What kind of man was this who stuck to his guns for what he believed, in the face of anger and vitriol, destestation and denuciation? Ann Waldron tells the story of a colorful, complex, combative man who in his college years was an outspoken white supremacist, but later changed his mind, spending the bulk of his life advocating for racial justice and finding himself on the unpopular sides of many political and social issues. No uncritical eulogy, this book re-creates the passionate life, public and private, of a flawed but authentic American hero.
Former Southern journalist Waldron provides a solid, though unstylish, biography of Hodding Carter (1907-1972), the courageous editor of the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times , Mississippi's most liberal newspaper during the Civil Rights era. Using a wealth of sources, Waldron ( Close Connections: Caroline Gordon and the Southern Renaissance ) documents the Lousiana-born Carter's evolution from teenage bigot to Huey Long opponent and his role, beginning in 1935, as editor of the incorruptible newspaper funded in part by Greenville leading light William Alexander Percy (adoptive father of novelist Walker Percy). Carter strained local mores by criticizing lynching and printing a photograph of black Olympian Jesse Owens; he argued in articles and books that Southern whites, not blacks or Northerners, had to change themselves. A 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winner for editorial writing, Carter crusaded for racial equality, but hedged on condemning segregation; after the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v . Board of Education decision, he attacked intransigent Citizens' Councils, but supported only gradual integration. While Waldron sympathetically describes Carter's delicate position, she offers little psychological insight into his character.