Maverick Among the Magnolias: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story
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When Hazel Brannon, newly graduated from the journalism school of the University of Alabama, said she wanted to "brighten her corner," her friends were hardly prepared for the denouement. Who would have expected that this "proper Southern young lady," as publisher of The Lexington Advertiser and three other weekly newspapers in darkest Mississippi, was to gradually renounce her racist views once she saw at first hand how the blacks were being mistreated? She called, in editorials and in her column, Through Hazel Eyes, for integrated schools, churches, libraries, public transportation and work places. She also demanded for blacks the right to vote, hold public office, serve as jurors and even to intermarry, an act which she had once branded as "a sin." For such apostasies, the editor, now Hazel Brannon Smith, was shunned by most of her former friends, harassed by lawsuits and subjected to smear attacks by the Ku Klux Klan, the white Citizens' Councils and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. A boycott was launched against her by the white power structure, a rival newspaper was established, one of her newspaper offices was dynamited, another torched by arsonists and a cross was burned on her lawn, Despite receiving economic aid from prominent journalists throughout the country to help keep her newspapers afloat, garnering the plaudits of important personages nationwide, winning a Pulitzer Prize and virtually every other prestigious journalistic award for her hard-hitting editorials, Mrs. Smith was always to be a prophet without honor among fellow whites in her own county. Maverick Among the Magnolias is the true, thrilling and touching story of a feisty, yet feminine, woman who not only witnessed and chronicled the civil rights struggles in her adopted Mississippi "through Hazel eyes," but, as Roy Steinfort of the First Amendment Center, Reston, Virginia, commented, "left a rich legend of courage for her journalistic survivors. Because of Smith's courage and contribution, Mississippi has changed for the better over the years. ... How many editors today ... would be willing to pay the price she did?"