The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard is the account of Clyde Kennard’s life and his significant but silent contribution to desegregate the South. What was your inspiration that made you want to write this book?
I’ve always had a fascination for the 1960’s and, reading and researching key events in that decade, one name kept cropping up, but generally only within a couple of paragraphs or a few pages at best, and that name was Clyde Kennard. I decided to hone in and further research this man to see what I could find out.
So to begin with it was really that lack of information about Mr Kennard that drew me in and I became intrigued as why that should be when many others of the civil rights movement of that time have received more attention.
The more I researched and discovered about Clyde Kennard, the more determined and passionate I became about the telling of his journey and how his efforts inspired others many decades later.
I understand that you spent more than ten years researching this book. What is something that surprised you while researching Clyde Kennard?
Yes, that’s right, and in that period my initial six pages of notes on grew into the book that exists today.
There were a few surprising things. One would have to be the lengths to which state actors would go to in those times in an attempt to stall or circumnavigate SCOTUS decisions. Another that a state would create an agency whose sole purpose was to protect it from “federal encroachment” and in essence spy on its citizens, in particular those who sought benefit from SCOTUS decisions among other things.
While these were a surprising, nothing, and you touched on this in your book review, nothing comes close to the disbelief I experienced learning about the Emmett Till case. I do still find that quite difficult to comprehend on various levels. The violence, the acquittal, the accused selling their story to Look magazine it in some graphic detail but, due to prevailing laws there could be no retrial.
This book raises Clyde Kennard up along with other civil rights leaders of the time. Was this your intention while writing this book?
To a some extent Clyde’s story told itself, the trick for me was to present it in the context of the times he lived in which I felt was critical to give his story meaning.
That period was, in my view, a time of extremes, I’m sure we’ve all seen the flashpoint photographs, Little Rock Central High, the firebomed Freedom Ride bus, Ole Miss at the time of James Meredith’s entry, the March On Washington and of course Selma.
To better understand the social and political climate of those times I completed a lot of research form both sides of the segregation debate. I wanted to try to understand not only what the issues were and why they had become so and also latterly, how those scenarios had come to be in the first place. Hence the Prologue in my book which attempts, in a few pages, to summarise how the respective positions had begun to develop over time.
The challenge with that of course was striking a balance, between Clyde’s own story and the context of those times, I think I got that right, but readers will be the real judges.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have enough research material I didn’t use to do another book on the same or related topics, however 10 years is a long time and I’ve been enjoying a little bit of a break to be honest. That said, I’m beginning to get the itch to do something. I’ve written a few short stories and I’m really enjoying that. I have also been considering a larger project on the Highland Clearances which would be a little closer to home for me. I am also gathering my poetry so may do a collection of those works. Availability wise, I will be sure to let you know.
In 1955, Clyde Kennard, a decorated army veteran, was forced to cut short the final year of his studies at the University of Chicago and return home to Mississippi due to family circumstances, where Kennard made the decision to complete his education. Yet still on the eve of the civil rights movement in America, Kennard’s decision would be one of the first serious attempts to integrate any public school at the college level in the state. The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard tells the true story of Kennard’s efforts to complete his further education at Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) against the backdrop of the institutionalized social order of the times and the prevailing winds of change attempting to blow that social order away. As Meredith’s admission to “Ole Miss” became more widely known at the time, Kennard became the forgotten man. Author Derek R. King shares his extensive research into Kennard’s life, and touches on key events that shaped those times.
The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen, written by Lori Leachman is the story of American Football coach Lamar Leachman from the perspective of his daughter. It follows a coach’s journey from professional player to high school coach to National Football League coach. We see the impact this has on his wife and two daughters. It is a uniquely feminine glimpse into what was ultimately a man’s world – where winning was everything!
Leachman writes of how her father’s chosen profession had an impact on herself and the life of her family. One impact was the geographical impact, always moving to where the job opportunities lay. The family had to move numerous times and she documents the effect this had on the children, in particular. They had to constantly make new friends, and learn the social mores in each new community. The children’s closest friends were often the children of the other football coaches. She describes how they were tough kids, they were coaches’ kids.
Leachman provides an interesting view of Black Civil Rights and how views differed among places. Her view of mixed race friendships were simple; if she liked someone she would be their friend. That of course, contrasted with the views many adults at that time had. She describes briefly living in Cartersville and being confronted by “Blacks Only” signs at the theater and the confusion she felt when she realized African Americans weren’t allowed to swim in the pool. This must have been a bewildering time for a young girl who was immersed in the professional world of football – where African Americans were respected for their skill.
Although her father’s career may have had some negative impacts for her, as she gets older she realizes that her lifestyle had some benefits. Leachman recounts the day she realized her family had some money to spare – something a lot of families did not have.
Tragically the person impacted most by his career choice was the coach himself. Leachman describes how her father’s mental capacity began to decline, and how he was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy attributed to injuries he received during his career.
This memoir is cleverly written, as it progresses through we see Leachman begin to understand her father’s talent as a coach, she recognizes his skill and determination and love for his wife and daughters. The only criticism of the book would be that on one occasion Leachman jumps back and forth between decades which interrupts the flow of the story.
This memoir is an interesting insight to the life of a professional coach, his dedication to the sport, and the impact and experiences for both him and his family.
Pages: 230 | ASIN: B07BRSTNNZ
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My writing is about life for I believe the subject is best served by those who have endured it.
Bully Route Home is a coming of age story that follows Pooch as he learns some of the hard lessons of life. What was your inspiration for the character of Pooch and the journey that he takes?
Pooch is a result of my having lived during the same era and experienced what this fictional character does. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that a portion of the young boy portrayed in Bully Route Home is me in that period of my life. However, both Pooch and his experiences are conglomerates of several different boys and their lives. Bully Route Home is not autobiographical. Several events that I’ve written are ones I’ve either been personally involved in or have been a closely associated witness. Others are based on events retold by others or are pure fiction. All have been modified to story mode… the book is truly a work of fiction. My inspiration for Pooch was to use his character as a vehicle for something else I wished to achieve. I wanted to underline the importance of parenting within our society. Pooch is the product of his parents. We are made by those who spend the most time with us. Pooch’s character reflects that, as does Buddy Mix reflect his father. The message is that fulfilling the parenting role is one of the most important ones we enact in our lives.
The book is beautifully written and addresses a subject that we are too often afraid to address. Why did you want to write about subjects such as racism?
If there is one thing that we of advanced age can contribute to those who must shape today’s society it is to illuminate error’s our civilization has made, to present the story in a manner that is understood, try to see those mistakes aren’t repeated, or at least, minimized as much as possible. I write my books with this foremost in my mind. I see us embarking on policies that will destroy what we were becoming and separate us into enemy camps. Bully Route Home asks, is it more important that we know if a black youth or a white youth caught fish… or simply that the fish were caught… is it more important that the community’s economy is saved or that it is done by someone with the proper color. I would hope that the reader grasps the under lying message. We make progress when we stress those things we have in common and deemphasize those things that make us different. Unfortunately the opposite is happening today.
Thank you for your kind words regarding the prose. I try to be sure that I don’t disappoint a reader when they pick up one of my novels.
I enjoyed Rebecca’s character as well. While we see the negativity of human character through many characters, we also see innocence and purity in Rebecca? What was your inspiration for her character and her struggles?
Rebecca is an embodiment of an ideal, not of an individual person. The ideal is that we must all have the courage and the willingness to sacrifice for those people and principles in which we believe. She is Pooch’s strongest defender! The weight of numbers, the viciousness, the personal grief she experiences doesn’t sway her. The purity and innocence you see in Rebecca is her commitment to her beliefs and the willingness to defend them. She understands that she is an individual, responsible for her thoughts, and that each individual must take a stand to protect them. Rebecca does not look for support from the school authorities, her parents, she takes responsibility for herself. It’s difficult to see Rebecca being bullied, isn’t it?
What is your background and experience in writing and how did it help you write Bully Route Home?
I’ve been writing for twenty plus years and have been blessed with numerous opportunities to travel the world and be involved in extremely diverse professions and activities. The latter provides me with a great inventory of experiences and human profiles to write about and the former provides me with the tools that allow me to express it understandably. I try to observe the rule, “write about what you know,” and I’ll add, “understand.” I purposely avoid writing fantasy, sci-fi, etc. I believe those areas are best served by young, unfettered minds that aren’t constricted by perceived realities. My writing is about life for I believe the subject is best served by those who have endured it.
The Past’s Portrayal of Today’s Problems. The continuing problem of bullying and the festering divide in race relations tear at our country. Their roots are in out past. Bully Route Home provides a picture of where we’ve been and of a time and place which we strive not to return. “Pooch” Robertson is a 12 year old growing up in the 1940’s rural South. He learns about the realities and the shortcomings of the world he lives in when a bully terrorizes him. Pooch chooses to walk home from school by making a detour through the black quarters to avoid daily beatings. The friendship he forms with a black youth forms a chain of events that threatens to spiral out of control and plunge the community through full-fledged race war.
Dr. C. Arthur Ellis talks with The Monster about his new book Hall of Mirrors which comments on the various short films and documentaries developed to examine the life and crime of Ruby McCollum.
“Ruby McCollum (August 31, 1909 – May 23, 1992) was known for killing a prominent caucasian doctor in 1952 (whom she accused) that he had abused her and forced her to have sex and bear his child.” – Wikipedia.org
You’ve written many books about the case of Ruby McCollum and the true crime story that shook the south. How does Hall of Mirrors differ from your other works?
I first completed the annotated transcript of the trial of Ruby McCollum, which contained comments on each day of the trial, based upon my direct knowledge of the case. Commentary included various relationships among the key players, including attorneys and witnesses, who were known to me. I was motivated to create this work since various academic publications, including the first edition of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters by Karla Kaplan, maintained that Ruby McCollum was not allowed to testify at her trial when she actually did testify.
I then published a true crime novel of the story, written from the 1st person perspective of Zora Neale Hurston, the famous African-American anthropologist who reported on the trial for the Pittsburgh Courier, and then the omniscient narrator voice to tell the backstory leading to the murder.
Hall of Mirrors differs from these first two publications in that it comments on the various short films and documentaries developed after my work, as well as on the academic publication, The Silencing of Ruby McCollum, written by Dr. Tammy Evans. I considered all of these works to be without any foundation in fact, and developed with what appeared to be various biases that slanted the truth of the case in order to make political or personal statements. Further, all of these accounts were developed by people who never knew the key characters in the story. Hall of Mirrors presents primary research, not secondary opinion, to allow readers the freedom to develop their own take on the story.
What is your connection to the story of Ruby McCollum?
I was delivered into this world by Dr. C. Leroy Adams, Jr., the murder victim, in the front bedroom of our family home in Live Oak, Florida, just a block from the McCollum home. My father worked with Dr. Adams at the Suwannee County Hospital, and my mother was friends with Mrs. Adams. I knew every other character in the story, some of whom were my relatives.
Do you think Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights and do you think her story is still relevant today?
I think that Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights since it was the first documented case in which a woman of color was allowed to take the witness stand in her own defense in a trial charging her with killing a white man. In Hall of Mirrors, I place this trial in context, beginning with a similar trial prior to the Civil War, continuing to a case prior to McCollum’s in the Jim Crow South, and ending with the McCollum trial. This establishes a clear path of progress toward equal justice in America’s courtrooms.
I think that the public is witnessing many trials today that continue this march toward social equality, and the McCollum case is a clear benchmark on the timeline of that social progress.
The debate over the Ruby McCollum’s case has continued through the years in part because Judge Adams placed a gag order on Ruby. Why do you think the judge silenced Ruby?
Had Ruby McCollum been allowed to speak freely with the press, Live Oak, Florida would have been a feeding ground for IRS treasury agents, and the white community would have been equally convicted of tax evasion, illegal gambling, racketeering, illegal liquor sales and many related offenses. The judge himself stated that he issued the order to “protect the community,” and this is actually quite true. This being said, Ruby McCollum was visited by a reporter from the Jacksonville Times when she was in the Florida Prison at Raiford and refused to talk with him. This is in a letter written by McCollum and published in Hall of Mirrors. It is likely that McCollum had been advised to avoid the press, should they be able to reach her.
Hall of Mirrors is the most thoroughly researched work on the Ruby McCollum story published since the work of William B. Huie. Written by the author who first published the annotated transcript of the murder trial, this work explores recent attempts to revise Ruby McCollum’s story to suit the motives of various authors, academics and film producers. Hall of Mirrors avoids confirmation and presentist biases and presents this captivating story in its proper historical context.