Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoirs #14: Young Man on the Rise

“When the Court House marches continued, the Commercial Appeal called Kingsley and Sellers back to Memphis and sent young Larry Speakes, who later was President Reagan’s spokesman and deputy press secretary, to help me. Larry was not long out of Ole Miss and was working for the Greenville bureau of the paper. I feel sure this was his first big assignment, and he came in one morning with his first wife and eighteen-month-old daughter. I did not know what he planned to do with them; certainly he didn’t plan to take them along to observe the demonstrations. So we left them on the back porch all day with Georgia [Edwards, Sara’s maid] feeling sorry for them while Larry and I went to get the story.

“Just as it was time for the Negro high school, Threadgill School, to let out, Larry parked about a block or so away in front of the SNCC headquarters and went inside, leaving me in the car. I was really frightened as large groups of young blacks swarmed down the street, and some gave me dirty glances as they passed the car.

“Later I followed Larry’s career as he worked first for Senator [James O.] Eastland and then for three presidents. He wrote me that many of the White House reporters were the same ones we had stood with on the Court House steps in Greenwood.”

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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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