/Journalist, author and former expat views Mississippi as ‘observer for the ages’

Journalist, author and former expat views Mississippi as ‘observer for the ages’

Dickerson’s mother was approached by an angry woman at the bank, her hands clasped on her hips. Dickerson recalled the words of the woman, “I just wanted to let you know that my babysitter has had your son playing with a black boy in the city park.” “The woman was shouting the N-word in loud voices like it was a cheer at football games,” Dickerson said. After work, Elle asked Elle if Elle had taken Jim to the park. Elle then asked Elle if it had been a mistake. After a pause, Elle asked her mother if she had taken Jim to the park. She said that she would take him there whenever she liked. He said, “So I integrated city parks in Greenville.” “I was proud of that.” It is impossible to tell Dickerson’s story without looking at it through the prism of the American civil right movement in Mississippi. He has many stories about babysitters. His career as an editor, reporter and author of nonfiction was shaped heavily by the South’s ideas of race and inequalities. Dickerson is the head of publishing company Sartoris Literary Group and has written more than 30 books. As a staff writer and editor, Dickerson worked at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers: The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, the Clarion Ledger/Jackson Daily News of Jackson, and the Delta Democrat–Times of Greenville. Dickerson, who spent 20 years in Mississippi as an expat in Memphis and Nashville moved to Rankin County 20 years ago to be near his family. He edited and published a magazine called Nine-O-One Network in the 1980s. It was the first South magazine to be distributed in newsstands in all 50 states, as well as overseas, in countries such the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. Recently, the 1968 University of Mississippi graduate visited the School of Journalism and New Media in order to discuss the possibility of establishing a Chair of Excellence for Investigative Reporting and Opinion writing with a focus of newspapers, magazines and books. Dickerson also discussed creating a James L. Dickerson Literary Trust and making an endowment to support the chair. This discussion is prompted by the success of his book “Colonel Tom Parker”: An investigative biography. Original publication was in 2001 by Cooper Square Press. Dickerson bought the rights to the book two years ago and republished them under his Sartoris imprint. He said, “Shortly after purchasing the rights to the book, an executive from Warner Bros. called me and inquired about optioning it for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film about Elvis Presley, as seen through Colonel Parker’s eyes.” I agreed to the terms, and it was later announced that Tom Hanks, who plays the role of Colonel Parker, would star in the movie. Priscilla Presley said to a ‘Today” interviewer that she was advising director. Filming begins in Australia in January/February. Dickerson stated that the film is due to be released in fall 2021. Luhrmann directed “Moulin Rouge” (and “The Great Gatsby”), and UM Assistant Debora Wenger, Ph.D. said that Dickerson was interested in meeting students and faculty during his visit. She said that Jim returned to campus, like many of our alumni to reconnect with a place that he loved. Jim believes in investigative journalism and editing that can make a difference in people’s lives. He is keen to help us keep that focus alive at our school. We can help graduate students to be better citizens of Mississippi and the nation. “This chair of excellence could prove to be a game-changer in many ways for us.” Dean Will Norton Jr., Ph.D. said Dickerson has been friends for decades with UM Professor Joe Atkins. Norton stated that Dickerson expressed interest in making a donation for the school to honor his commitment to investigative reporting, and editorial writing. He is an engaging storyteller and a precise reporter. His name and career will be a boost to the School of Journalism and New Media. Photo by Michael Fagans Dickerson. Dickerson has always enjoyed books. He was awarded a certificate by the Greenwood-Leflore Library for having read more books in summer than any other child in the county. He had already written his memoir by the time he was 12, but it did not include the many memorable experiences that he would have in Mississippi during the civil right movement. His family moved from Greenville, South Carolina to Hollandale in search of a more balanced mix of African Americans and whites. Dickerson began working Saturdays at his grandfather’s department shop from 8 a.m. to closing. He made friends with many people, both black and white. He said, “With my money I bought a Yazoo Big Wheel mower.” “One day, it was found in my garage. The garage didn’t even have a door. I was looking out of my window when I saw a tall black man, about 20 years old, wearing a bandana and stealing my mower. I ran down the alley and chased him out of my house. I saw him and he left the mower. My mother heard me tell my mother and she informed the police chief. “About one week later, police chief said, “I need you to go by and identify who stole your mower.” “So I went into the police station and found a 16-year old black boy, short but not tall, with his face — he’d been beaten. His face was covered in blood. His eyes were swollen. His eyes were swollen. Dickerson, now 17, had already read every William Faulkner book. This is one of the main reasons Dickerson chose the University of Mississippi to replace an Australian university. He studied English and psychology and played in many bands. In the first six months, he was a part of several civil rights events. James Meredith was also on campus. Cleve McDowell was also on campus, marking the second African American student at the University of Mississippi. Dickerson stated, “Once, when I was in cafeteria, there was a large middle section.” “I was having lunch when Cleve McDowell came into the cafeteria and set his tray down three tables from me. Everyone except me stood up and walked away. They were not going to share a meal in a restaurant with him. He didn’t seem to want to talk. He didn’t attempt to initiate a conversation. He just sat down and ate his lunch. He ate his lunch.” Dickerson wrote a book years later. Dickerson reached out to McDowell for an interview. McDowell asked him if he had any memories of the cafeteria incident that left everyone. “He said, ‘Yeah. He said, “Yeah. He was the one? They claimed he was killed by one of his clients. Dickerson stated that he didn’t believe the story for a moment. McDowell was a civil rights lawyer who served as a Sunflower County public defender for over 30 years. He had also been part of a group that attempted to reexamine cases where African American civil right activists had been murdered. In 1997, he was 56 years old when he was shot to death in his own home. Dickerson quit his UM fraternity during his first six months because they blackballed his Jewish bandmate. He said, “I was eating soup with cornbread for lunch.” “I just exploded. I dropped my cornbread into the soup. It splashed all over everyone at the table and I said, “See you later,” and I never looked back. Photo by Michael Fagans. “I wasn’t raised that way.” My family was surrounded by Jewish families. They were not mentioned. We had Chinese families. We had Lebanese families. We had Syrian families. We had French families. It was just a melting-pot in my small hometown,” Dickerson stated, describing Greenville at that time as the multicultural center for Mississippi. His friend, he said, later transferred from UM and Tulane to pursue medical school. Dickerson’s freshman year was full of memorable stories, but one incident in 1963 made a difference in his life. He was on campus on Nov. 22 when President John F. Kennedy was killed. His reaction to the incident was shocking. He said that he was hated by Ole Miss students. I heard honking horns and a commotion in the streets. As far as I could see, there was a caravan. Everyone waved Rebel flags. They would move a bit, then stop, and move a bit more before stopping. “I asked, “What’s the matter?” A man replied, “They killed Kennedy.” Hotty Toddy Gosh Almighty! Who the Heck are We? “All the things that I have told you have had an impact on my life and shaped who I became. . . It was unbelievable to me. It’s not normal to celebrate the death of a president. . .They were Ole Miss student just like me, which was unacceptable.” Photo courtesy James L. Dickerson Dickerson worked his first newspaper job with Hodding Carter III. He said he hired Dickerson to work at Delta Democrat-Times. Then he went on to take a position as an assistant secretary of state for state for public affairs and then as a state department spokesman in the Carter administration. Dickerson is the author of around 40 books after a long career in newspapers. Dickerson has authored many books, including “Devil’s Sanctuary”: An Eyewitness History on Mississippi Hate Crimes,” and “Inside America’s Concentration Camps, Two Centuries Of Internment And Torture.” Dickerson also said that the next book he’s writing with the potential to be a major motion-picture is about Lil Hardin Armstrong. This was Louis Armstrong’s second wife. His parents were married in Oxford. The prolific songwriter was the first woman to be a part of male jazz bands in Chicago. Dickerson claimed she was in love with Armstrong and wrote many of his songs. She also booked Armstrong’s recording sessions, performed piano for them, and was ultimately responsible. Atkins stated that he met Dickerson in 1981, shortly after he arrived in Mississippi as a Jackson Daily News business writer. He said, “His desk was next to mine and I recall him smoking his pipe. He looked every bit the thoughtful, intelligent person you would expect from an editorial writer.” “Jim had quiet confidence about him and he was an island of calm in the stormy sea that was that newsroom.” Photo by James L. Dickerson Atkins stated that he had read many of his friend’s books over time and some became crucial in his research on the South and its torturous history. Dickerson published two Atkins fiction books. Atkins stated that Jim has contributed significantly to the publication of many other books. He believes in the importance of quality journalism in society. Jim dreams big. He is a visionary. He works hard to make every dream come true. Dickerson believes that people remain in Mississippi for many “complicated reasons,” including the desire to make the state a better state to live in. He also said that this is what motivated him to start a non-profit, Foundation for Literacy by the Book. This nonprofit will come up with creative solutions to the state’s literacy problems. “My relationship with Mississippi now?” “My relationship to Mississippi now?