Habeus Who?

Commercial Appeal Tri-State correspondents, late 1950s. How did Sara always wind up in the middle? There she is, fourth from the left, middle row. The one who isn't dowdy.

“Another time shortly after I started covering news I was asked to go to a habeus corpus hearing in Circuit Court for a fifteen year old boy from Lucedale who had been sentenced to Parchman for rape. This was my first court case, and again I wasn’t at all sure what a habeus corpus hearing was all about. The boy’s lawyer asked me to take a picture after the hearing with the boy’s parents hugging him. So I sent Russell to the car for my camera and started snapping away. In a minute the sheriff, John Ed Cothran, walked over and told me that the judge, R.A. Jordan, wanted to see me at the bench. I was petrified.

“Fortunately he had known me a long time and knew that I was new at this game, so he laughed and told me that you didn’t take pictures in the court room without the judge’s permission. He did let me keep my film though, and I don’t remember whether the paper used the picture or not, but the lawyer asked me to send him a copy. He obviously wanted it to gain sympathy for the boy.”

Sara had exactly one semester of college, plus a few post-Christmas weeks before she convinced Jessie that this money was going down a drain. She never took a law course, never ran for office, knew nothing of police procedurals or emergency management. And yet by hook and crook and just keeping her eyes and ears open and gaining the trust of most everybody in authority, she wrote detailed, accurate articles on public corruption, murders, elections, scandals, you name it. She wasn’t scared of the devil himself and she absolutely loathed anyone who shamed Greenwood or cast her and her neighbors in a bad light. And Russell? He was often in the background somewhere, keeping an eye on developments, living vicariously through this interesting woman who he knew to be a terrible driver and above-average cook and dedicated mother and crackerjack newswoman. I asked him once, not long before he died, if he had ever considered a career other than the one he chose, stocking baby food and pickles and ketchup. Without hesitation, he told me he wished he could have been a newspaper editor. Who knew?

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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One Response to Habeus Who?

  1. Gray Evans says:

    My E-mail is messed up, so don’t be alarmed if you’re not getting any comments from me. A man from Microsped tried in vain to straighten it out but finally told me to call A.T.& T., which I haven’t had time to do yet. Tricia

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