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Investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell to deliver Hodding Carter Lecture on civil rights and the press at Newhouse
Investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell to deliver Hodding Carter Lecture on civil rights and the press at NewhouseApril 06, 2006Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., whose work uncovers unsolved murders of the Civil Rights era, will deliver the second annual Hodding Carter Lecture on civil rights and the press at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The lecture will take place April 20 at 7:30 p.m., in Room A1 of Newhouse I. It is free and open to the public. Paid parking is available in the Marion and Comstock lots.
Since 1989, Mitchell’s reporting has helped put four Ku Klux Klansmen in prison and sparked even more arrests and convictions for Civil Rights-era murders across the Deep South. His work has won him some of journalism’s top awards, in addition to criticism as a “white traitor” and even death threats.
“Jerry Mitchell is an inspiration. He proves that good, important journalism still thrives and still matters for our society,” says Charlotte Grimes, the Newhouse School’s Knight Chair in Political Reporting and lecture series organizer.
Mitchell began digging into Civil Rights-era murders in 1989, when he was a court reporter for The Clarion-Ledger. His inspiration came from the movie “Mississippi Burning,” which details the 1964 killings of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.
Mitchell’s reporting has helped lead to the convictions of four KKK clansmen: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers; Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering a 1966 firebombing that killed NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer; Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church in which four young girls died; and most recently, Edgar Ray Killen for helping to arrange the killings of civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman more than 40 years ago.
Since Mitchell began his dogged reporting into Civil Rights-era cases, law enforcement officials across the South have renewed investigations into 29 killings, which have led to 27 arrests and 22 convictions. Mitchell and his work have generated coverage and recognition by The New York Times, Nightline, CNN and American Journalism Review, among others. He was portrayed by actor Jerry Levine in Rob Reiner’s 1996 film “Ghosts of Mississippi.”
Mitchell is the 2005 winner of the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism administered by Columbia University. At age 47, he is the youngest recipient. He is also the 2005 winner of another of journalism’s prestigious awards–the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting. His other national awards include The Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award for Enterprise Reporting, the Heywood Broun Award and the Sidney Hillman Award.
Praising Mitchell’s selection for the John Chancellor Award, selection-committee member and prominent journalist David Halberstam said: “Mitchell pursued these stories after most people believed they belonged to history, and not to journalism. But they did belong to journalism, because the truth had never been told and justice had never been done.”
Mitchell joined The Clarion-Ledger in 1986. He grew up in Texarkana, Texas, and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Ohio State University. He and his wife live in Jackson, Miss., with their two children.
The Hodding Carter Lecture Series, established in 2005, celebrates the journalism of conscience and courage that was the hallmark of award winning father-and-son journalists Hodding Carter, Jr. and Hodding Carter III, who championed tolerance, challenged bigotry and embraced civil rights throughout their careers.