Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Liberating Dixie" by Ed Williams (2014)

There are a couple of reasons I read this book. The first was that Ed Williams; although no relation to me; used to stop by my house every morning. He’s the former editor of the Charlotte Observer, which is the only daily newspaper in Charlotte, and so the one which I have had delivered for the past 16 years. Secondly; and of no less importance; is that Mr. Williams has been writing about the south, and its politics, for the Observer since 1973.  And lastly, as a newcomer to this city in 1998, his writings have kept me informed as to new changes, as well as some of the history of the not so old south. To a newcomer this was an invaluable service.

The author spent some time as the editor of the student newspaper at Ole Miss, before serving in the army for 2 years in the mid 1960’s. By 1967 he was ready to begin his journalistic career. And that career led him to a home in Charlotte.

Mr. Williams’ columns are insightful and cover everything from foreign policy and Civil Rights to Senator Jesse Helms and Barack Obama. He has presided over a newsroom which produced Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonists, and a Letters to the Editors page which manages to represent all sides of the divergent views which make us who we are.

He frequently reaches back into local politics and history, seeking to find some consistency in the inconsistent world of politics that will explain how things got to where they are. These columns have been more than helpful to a Northern transplant like me. And I know I’m not alone in that.

Gay Rights, Unions, Boy Scouts, Religion; it’s all here. The stories of the old cotton mills; once the staple of economy in our region; are moving and speak to the demise of the industry. The pieces about WBT – the Colossus of the South – are informative and entertaining. There are so many subjects covered in this book that it will be hard for the average reader to become bored.

This is a perfect book for summer reading. You can pick it up on any page and be entertained and informed all at once. And isn't that what a good newspaper columnist does? It’s just that most don’t do it as well as Ed Williams.

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