A panel discussion, readings from the book and a reception will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the theater at the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum in Atlanta. The event will celebrate the release of Nelson’s memoir, “Scoop: The Evolution of a Southern Reporter,” which was completed and edited by his wife, Barbara Matusow. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
“Nelson was one of the most important journalists of the 20th century,” says Randall Burkett, curator of MARBL’s African American Collections. “He was committed to rooting out injustice and corruption in American life wherever he found it. Once he began to focus on the Jim Crow South, and the violence and the collusion essential to its perpetuation, he became an aggressive reporter on the subject.”
MARBL holds Nelson’s papers along with those of several other Southern journalists that include Ralph McGill, Joseph Cumming, William Emerson, John Herbers, Celestine Sibley and Claude Sitton.
Matusow, a former journalist, says people often thought of her husband as a political reporter and TV personality in his later years and were surprised to find out about his hard-nosed reporting in the civil rights era.
“A lot of people didn’t know about this tough, no-holds-barred guy who walked into Klan rallies and had his life threatened,” Matusow says of Nelson. “This part of his career was more colorful, more adventurous and directly affected the lives of probably thousands of people. It’s part of his legacy that I’m very happy is being honored by the Carter Library and by Emory University in having selected his papers.”
Jack Nelson (1929-2009) grew up in Alabama and Mississippi, and started his career as a reporter in Biloxi and Gulfport. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for an Atlanta Constitution story uncovering abuse at a Milledgeville mental hospital, reported on the widespread corruption in Georgia in the 1950s and early 1960s, and covered civil rights issues and events, becoming the Washington bureau chief at the Los Angeles Times. He was lauded for his stories on the Watergate scandal.
MARBL will have a small display of reproductions from Nelson’s archive, including his Pulitzer notice and four of his press passes. MARBL and the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum are co-sponsoring the event.
Panelists will include Matusow, former president Jimmy Carter, former UN Ambassador and civil rights activist Andrew Young and Terry Adamson (68C, 73L), former Department of Justice spokesman during the Carter administration. Nelson was a reporter in Georgia as Carter rose through the political ranks and also covered the Carter administration. The two shared a bond and mutual respect, Matusow says.
The discussion will be moderated by Hank Klibanoff, former Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) managing editor and James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism at Emory University, who played a key role in seeing that Nelson’s papers came to MARBL. He is also the co-author of "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation," winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in history.
“Jack felt he was late in covering civil rights, but when he did cover it, he brought such sharp, investigative skills to it, he really changed the way the story was being covered,” Klibanoff says.
Following the panel discussion, there will be a dessert reception, readings from the book, viewing of the Nelson materials from MARBL, book sales by A Cappella Books and a signing by Matusow in the atrium and lobby of the building. Those who will read from the book include MARBL director Rosemary Magee, AJC editor Kevin Riley, and Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist and editorial page editor at the AJC.
The Jimmy Carter Library & Museum is located at 441 Freedom Pkwy., Atlanta 30307.
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- Julie Braun
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