Retrospective

Sara in middle row, second from left.

“The most interesting phase of my whole newspaper career, which lasted altogether for 29 years, was the period of the ’60s and the civil rights struggle and I will try to recall some of this period in more detail.

“There were many hectic times while I worked for the paper, and sometimes I would threaten to quit, but today I would not take anything for the experiences I had, and the things I learned, and the contacts I made during those years. With no journalism background other than my short stint as editor of the high school newspaper, it took a lot of nerve to cover some of the events I did, but I bluffed my way through a lot of them and used the good English background I had received in the Greenwood schools.

“Russell chauffeured me on many of the assignments and stood with me in dangerous situations and encouraged me. Using his sales ability he convinced me that I should not ask people something and add, ‘I’m sure you probably don’t want to tell me’ but should be more positive. I never did get good at asking people embarrassing or personal questions because I always thought about how I would have felt in their position.

“I am sure I had as many stories and pictures as any of the other correspondents and more than most used in the paper. I was invited every year to the editor’s luncheon during the Mid-South Fair in Memphis and recognized as one of their top correspondents.”

Remember the very first blog title, way back in April? “She was interesting, because she was interested.” Who would have ever dreamed that the third little Evans girl on Strong  Avenue would grow up to do what Sara did? With no formal training and no journalistic pedigree, she talked her way onto the staff of one of the South’s premier newspapers and built a stellar career that lasted almost 30 years. What she has shared in the pages of her memoir is just the barest tip of the iceberg. I remember very few days that she wasn’t out with her notebook and her camera, checking on trouble or stirring up trouble or turning over stones for tidbits. Afternoons were devoted to pulling it all together, developing photographs to go on the last Greyhound to Memphis and typing up stories to be transferred over to the teletype. And all the while she was tending to every need that Russell, Cathy and I had, generally with equanimity and patience. We all lived by the deadline, but we were also proud as punch when her byline appeared in the Commercial. It was just a wonderful way to grow up, watching our world interpreted for the newspaper’s readers through the eyes of someone we loved.

She didn’t pat herself on the back very often, but she does just a bit in this section of the memoir. I think occasionally she looked back at what she had accomplished and thought, “How on Earth did that happen?” Some blind luck, a whole lot of talent and sheer grit.

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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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3 Responses to Retrospective

  1. Nancy Webb Phillips says:

    When I think of your mother, I see that camera. She was everywhere with it. I really wanted to come to Turnrow Tuesday and see the photos. I was tutoring during the time the Holiday Open House was happening, though. I hope someday I will get another opportunity to look at them. I have a love for history, and her photos are a more personal history because they are of Greenwood.

    • sec040121 says:

      Nancy, That camera is sitting on my kitchen shelf right now, after it’s brief appearance in “The Help.” The photos will stay up in Turnrow for awhile longer and maybe we can get together one day and just look at the albums. The funniest pictures of our group are from Miss Eubanks’ 2nd grade class…..Doing the Twist!

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