On March 28, veteran Mississippi journalist, Bill Minor died. He was 93 years old.
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Minor, he wrote columns and articles for The Clarion-Ledger for decades. Minor was a hardcore liberal Democrat and race was at the forefront of his writings. He and I could not have been more different on just about every issue. However, during the early years of my publishing career in Jackson, we were good friends and I learned a lot from him.
Minor grew up in New Orleans and served in the Navy where he saw some close calls from the Japanese, which included kamikazes doing all they could to take his life and the lives of others around him. After the war, he returned to New Orleans and went to work for The Times-Picayune newspaper. The Times sent him to Jackson and from there, he wrote mostly about Mississippi politics. Minor came to the Delta and covered the Emmett Till case, and he told me that assignment “was an eye-opener into that part of the state.”
One of the best memories I have of Mr. Minor is the night he sat next to me at dinner in Jackson and told me about Bobby Kennedy’s April 10, 1967 trip to the Mississippi Delta …. in detail.
On April 9, Kennedy arrived in Jackson to discuss and research poverty in Mississippi. The next day, Kennedy decided to drive through the Delta based on encouragement from civil rights lawyer, Marian Wright.
The group drove from Jackson to Yazoo City, and on from there. Just outside of Yazoo City, Minor told me they stopped at a tenant house and Kennedy walked inside. When he came out, Minor asked him, “Senator, have you ever seen poverty like this?” Minor told me Kennedy responded, “Yes, I have. I have seen it in Southeast Asia.” The tour continued with stops in Greenville, then up Highway 61 to Cleveland, Mound Bayou and Clarksdale.
Back in 2003 when I started sister publication, Delta Magazine, Mr. Minor said he thought a history piece on Kennedy’s Delta trip would be a good story in our new magazine. He commented in the article and gave me other ideas as to how the story should be written. Then, he told me, “Call Senator Ted Kennedy for a comment.”
“Just pick up the phone and call him out of the blue?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I guarantee you he would like to comment in your article.”
So, I instructed our writer, Chip Mabry, to call Senator Ted Kennedy in Washington. Chip called Senator Kennedy’s office and the receptionist didn’t let Chip speak with Kennedy. “I’ll take your name and someone will call you back,” she said.
Chip hung up the phone and smirked at me. “See, I told you Kennedy wouldn’t take our call.”
Five minutes later our receptionist buzzed Chip and me over the speaker phone and said, “Senator Ted Kennedy is on the line.”
Kennedy spoke with Chip for 20 minutes about Bobby’s trip to the Delta.
“That night when Bobby returned from the Mississippi Delta, he sat at the dinner table and said very little,” Senator Kennedy told us.
Bobby’s wife and children didn’t push him to tell them what was wrong; however according to Senator Ted, Bobby was so moved by what he had seen in the Delta, he couldn’t get it out of his mind.
“That trip down to Mississippi played a large part in Bobby deciding to run for president,” Ted said.
Despite Minor’s prominent lawyer son going to jail (that was highly publicized numerous times in the paper Minor wrote for), despite the strokes he endured, and despite the many obstacles that were thrown in his way throughout his life because of his writings and what he believed, Minor soldiered on – writing about what he felt was important.
I was honored to have known him during my first several years in the publishing business. He gave me great advice and opened my eyes to many things. I’ll always be thankful for that.
Scott Coopwood is a seventh-generation Deltan who lives in Cleveland, Mississippi with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current. He can be reached at email@example.com.