Archive for February, 2010

Julie Williams Gives Electronic Student Presentation on the Wright Brothers

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Orville and Wilbur would have approved, no doubt, of the technology that permitted Samford University professor Julie Williams, author of Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama 1910, recently published by NewSouth Books, to visit remotely with students at Shiloh Point Elementary School. In a video conference with the school’s fifth graders, set up by Horizons Program Teacher Elizabeth Stevens on February 4, it was almost as if Williams was present in Cumming, Georgia, that day.

Dr. Williams shared with students the story of the nation’s first civilian flight school, founded by Orville and Wilbur Wright in Montgomery, Alabama, a lesser-known chapter in aviation history. The journalism professor was delighted to receive a bit of instruction from her students as well, who informed her that Orville Wright had invented a calculating machine, a precursor of the modern calculator, in 1895, a fact they had uncovered while researching the Wrights on The Wilbur and Orville Wright Timeline, 1867-1948. Obviously the students had done their homework and were well-prepared to participate in the video conference, a technological development the forward-thinking Wrights would no doubt have appreciated.

Wings of Opportunity is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.


NewSouth Author Rheta Grimsley Johnson Named 2010 Clarence Cason Award Winner

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author and award-winning journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been named the winner of the 2010 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Established in 1997 to honor exemplary non-fiction writing over a long career, the Cason Award is given annually by the University of Alabama’s journalism department within the Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences. Johnson will receive the award at a banquet in her honor at the Hotel Capstone in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Tuesday, March 9.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson has covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and her memorable career is punctuated by her distinctive writing voice and an unerring knack for revealing her much-loved South through uncommon stories about its common people.

Johnson is no stranger to receiving awards—she’s garnered many during her over three decade tenure covering the South, including the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award for human interest reporting (1983), the Headliner Award for commentary (1985), and the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for commentary (1982). In 1986 Johnson was inducted into the Scripps Howard Newspapers Editorial Hall of Fame, and in 1991 she was one of the three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Syndicated today by King Features of New York, Johnson’s column appears in about fifty papers nationwide.

Johnson is also the author of several books, including the NewSouth published Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana and the forthcoming Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir.

The evening’s event begins at 6:00 p.m., and tickets for the dinner are $50. To order tickets, call Sheila Davis at 205-348-4787.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek Evokes Strong Memories for Dr. Louis McLeod

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

In a message to Bob Zellner, author with Constance Curry of the 2009 Lillian Smith Award-winning The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, Dr. Louis McLoud recalls his relevant personal history:

Thank you, Bob Zellner, for sending a signed copy of your book. I was wanting one for my children, so that they would understand who their people are. Those times of white and colored restaurants, bathrooms, and water fountains . . . It’s so foreign to them now. When I tell my nineteen-year-old son about my experiences growing up in segregated Alabama, he says, “That’s so stupid!” (He says that about the Iraq war, too.) 

During the summer of 1963, before my senior year in high school, I met an African-American Methodist minister from Tuskegee — Rev. J.C. Wilson was his name — who encouraged me to gather some white teens from Auburn to meet with some of the youth of his church, the Bowen United Methodist Church.  Auburn High School was segregated at the time, so my white friends and I met a number of times to plan our trip to Tuskegee, planning for Lingo’s troopers, etc. We encountered nothing like what you did in Montgomery, but did have our car tags run when we all got together at the Wesley Foundation at Auburn. 

A year or so later, in late 1964 or early 1965, at a meeting of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, I shared some of these experiences and impressions with Virginia Durr, the white civil rights activist who played such a crucial role in helping bring about change in Alabama. She asked why my friends and I had not met with the black youths in Auburn. She had a great point, to which my only answer was that we had to start somewhere. I do think that what our getting together did in some small way help pave the way for integrating the high schools after I left for college.

Separately, let me also mention that as a result of my contact with Rev. Wilson, I was asked to speak at the annual youth meeting of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church,  held in Birmingham in June 1964. It was held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, which is located on the same block as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I traveled to Birmingham in the company of a friend. You can imagine our astonishment to see the bombed church. Tensions at that time still ran so high that the sight of two white boys in the black crowd outside the church occasioned a red pickup truck that was turning the corner to screech to a stop! You can understand when I say that we were somewhat scared. But clearly, Bob, you understand that change can be frightening sometimes.

Mary Kay Andrews: Rheta Grimsley Johnson offers “lots to love” in new memoir

Thursday, February 11th, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

New York Times best-selling author Mary Kay Andrews chooses her words — and, it seems, her bedtime reading material — carefully. Fortunately for NewSouth Books, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming by Rheta Grimsley Johnson won a spot on her night table and now on her blog.

The author of Savannah Breeze, Blue Christmas, and the soon-to-be-published The FIxer Upper calls Enchanted Evening Barbie a “Valentine to life in the South,” and praises Johnson’s “ability to make both the comic and tragic come alive in this wonderful memoir.” Thanks, Ms. Andrews, for the gift.

Small-town newspapers: Author Julie Williams Speaks to Their Worth

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

In a recent article that ran in the Samson Independent in Clinton, N. C., Julie Williams, author of the newly released Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama, 1910 remembers her tenure there as a very young journalist, when she honed her reporting skills and learned to appreciate the importance of home-town journalism.

The love of journalism that developed during her time at the Independent inspired Williams to pursue a Ph.D in the subject and later to draft a paper on local journalists’ coverage of a flight school established by the Wright brothers in Montgomery, Alabama. This project developed into a full-fleged book, the just-published Wings of Opportunity, appealing to students of both the history of flight and the history of journalism and public relations.

Dr. Williams shared her enthusiasm for small-town newspaper with the Independent, stressing that she “is also quite optimistic about the role that small town newspapers have in the lives of its residents. ‘I tell people all the time. Who else is going to cover a small town?,’ Williams remarked, adding that the newspaper is truly ‘the first place to make a difference’ in people’s lives.”

Wings of Opportunity is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Steve Suits Editorial Recalls Hugo Black’s Judicial Opinions

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author Steve Suitts recently contributed an op-editorial to the Daily Report, Fulton County Georgia’s leading source for legal news and information. In the editorial, Suitts, author of Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution, discusses the historical context of a recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down congressional limits on corporate campaign contributions.

Suitts also discusses Hugo Black’s role as the only Supreme Court justice to previously address the constitutionality of treating corporations as persons, an opinion he provided twice during his time on the bench.

From the article:

Black’s opinions recall a fascinating story of how corporations became persons under our Constitution virtually by default and gained expanded federal constitutional protections far earlier than people whose skin color denied them the rights of personhood …

His dissents also raise an intriguing question as to whether the current court can honestly find the legal authority and precedent to apply its recent ruling against Congress to the states through the 14th Amendment …

Steve Suitts is the founder of the Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the vice president of the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta, and an adjunct lecturer at Emory University’s Institute of Liberal Arts. Hugo Black of Alabama is Suitts’s definitive study of Supreme Court justice Hugo Black’s origins and influences and offers fresh insights into the justice’s character, thought processes, and instincts.

Hugo Black of Alabama is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online or local retailer.

Alabama Department of Archives Honors NewSouth Author Frazine Taylor

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

The Alabama Department of Archives and History honored its highest-ranking female employee, reference department head and black history and genealogy specialist Frazine Taylor, with a retirement party attended by some 100 people on Monday, February 1. The Montgomery Advertiser covered the event and interviewed admiring colleagues including ADAH director Dr. Ed Bridges, who praised her professionalism and observed, “Frazine’s become a national leader in the field.”

Taylor noted that curiosity about her own ancestry inspired the writing of her book on how to use state records for genealogy research. Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama was published by NewSouth Books in 2008.

From the article:

“When I first came there were not a lot of African-Americans doing family history because they didn’t have the tools,” said Taylor. “I conducted workshops and other things to help provide [those] tools.”

She said most of her efforts were directed at helping families use the services Alabama Department of Archives and History provided to search for information they lacked about past generations. She said she has been able to trace her own family roots back to the 1850s.

Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Alabama Big Read!

Friday, February 5th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Alabama readers will dive into The Adventures of Tom Sawyer after the kickoff of the Big Read program held yesterday, February 2, on the steps of the State House in Montgomery, Alabama. Lt. Governor Jim Folsom began the initiative by reading the first page of Mark Twain’s classic novel, surrounded by legislative representatives and librarians. Sponsored by the state libraries of Alabama, the event inaugurated Alabama’s first ever Big Read program, highlighted by the publication of a special edition of Tom Sawyer produced by NewSouth Books.

Alabama Big Read kickoff

Dr. Alan Gribben with the Tom Sawyer display at the Alabama Big Read kickoff.

Kickoff participants included Rebecca Mitchell, State Librarian; Mark Dixon, Deputy Policy Director; Rep. Greg Canfield; Dr. Alan Gribben, Twain scholar and author of the foreword to the special Alabama Big Read edition of Tom Sawyer, Randall Williams, NewSouth Books co-founder and editor-in-chief, and Brian Seidman, NewSouth Books managing editor.

Seidman described the kickoff event as “a nice way to get all the librarians and participants excited about this endeavor. It really showed the support of the Alabama legislature behind the Big Read. What a great start!”

In a bit of serendipity, a group of Scouts was visiting the State Capitol at the time of the kickoff, and several asked Dr. Gribben to sign copies of his introduction to Tom Sawyer.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is Mark Twain’s enduring paean to the joys of childhood in a small town prior to the Civil War. In this novel Twain discovered the literary potential of his early days in Hannibal and created a pair of young characters, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who would earn him lasting fame. NewSouth Books is especially pleased to have been selected to produce the unique Alabama edition.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming named Spring 2010 SIBA Okra Pick

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

Enchanted Evening Barbie by Rheta Grimsley Johnson“It may still be frosty outside but in the South it’s always Okra Season!” So says the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) in announcing the books named to its 2010 winter/spring Okra Picks list.

Lucky for us at NewSouth, Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir made the cut. Thanks, SIBA. Maybe writer and reviewer Nancy Pate said it best in considering the bushel of literary delights: “I think I need a snack to tide me over.” We agree!

Of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, Rick Bragg says, “Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes with nothing short of beauty about childhood, lost loves, sad dogs, and everything else worth knowing about.” Watch for it in April.

Congratulations to Randall Williams for New Alabama Guide

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 by Brian Seidman

The Alabama Guide: Our People, Resources, and Government is a humdinger and ought to be on a book shelf in every home in the state,” says Alvin Benn in his January 13, 2010 Montgomery Advertiser column. NewSouth Books Editor-in-Chief Randall Williams coordinated and designed the over 700-page Alabama Guide in association with the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

“This is the most informative overview of Alabama in one place that I’ve ever seen,” Archives Director Ed Bridges told Benn. “Randall took a technical, complex presentation and translated it into something readable and interesting.” Benn goes on to note that Bridges “credits Williams with helping to produce something that has drawn such a positive reception from the public. Williams designed the cover and handled many other duties as he worked to complete the project.”

The Alabama Guide contains numerous charts, maps, and photographs; complete listings of state agencies, courts, and legislators; and a 133-page “Historical Alabama” section written by Bridges. The book is available from your favorite local bookstore or; Benn notes that future printings are planned.