Tuesday, April 3, 5:30 p.m.
'Delta Epiphany'
Ellen Meacham, a member of the Ole Miss journalism faculty, is the author of a just-published book which suggests that Robert F. Kennedy’s politics were transformed by his visit to the Mississippi Delta in 1967 where he saw first-hand the problems of poverty and hunger. The trip helped lead Kennedy to seek the presidency in 1968 in a campaign that cost him his life. Joining her on the program will be Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who covered Kennedy’s trip for the Clarksdale Press Register.

Tuesday, April 10, 5:30 p.m.
Why Debates are Vital
Janet Brown, executive director of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates for the past 30 years, will talk about the importance of these events in modern American politics with Charles Overby and Curtis Wilkie, who both covered most of the 20th century debates as journalists. (Janet Brown was instrumental in bringing the first debate of 2008 to the Ole Miss campus and is returning as a guest lecturer this spring at the school’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.)

Tuesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m.
Tales of Outrageous Injustice
In an explosive new book, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist,” Radley Balko, an investigative reporter with The Washington Post, and Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the Ole Miss Law School, document how incompetent and highly questionable testimony by often-used “expert witnesses” in Mississippi courts sent innocent people to prison. They will come to the Overby Center to talk about how a plague of institutional racism and junk forensic evidence became a force in the judicial system of this state.

Janet Brown, Director of Presidential Debates, to Appear at Overby Center

Janet Brown, the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates who was instrumental in bringing the first 2008 debate to the Ole Miss campus, will be the featured guest in a discussion next Tuesday, April 10, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics about the merits of holding the high-stakes political confrontation.

The program – the fifth of the spring season at the Overby Center – will begin at 5:30 p.m. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Overby auditorium, and a reception will be held following the event. All Overby Center functions are free and open to the public.

Brown is currently serving as a guest lecturer for two weeks at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, but she has a longer history with Mississippi and the university. Her grandparents were residents of Como and she has been a frequent visitor to the state. Ten years ago, she was the key force behind the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, a dramatic moment during the campaign when McCain, the Republican nominee, threatened to pull out of the encounter in order to pay more attention to an economic crisis.

Brown is currently serving as a guest lecturer for two weeks at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, but she has a longer history with Mississippi and the university. Her grandparents were residents of Como and she has been a frequent visitor to the state. Ten years ago, she was the key force behind the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, a dramatic moment during the campaign when McCain, the Republican nominee, threatened to pull out of the encounter in order to pay more attention to an economic crisis.

She will talk about her experiences over the past 30 years as head of the non-partisan commission and her thoughts about the value of presidential debates in a discussion with Charles Overby, chairman of the center, Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who is teaching the Honors College class on presidential debates with Brown, and Tom Oliphant, a former political columnist for the Boston Globe. As journalists, Overby, Wilkie and Oliphant covered many of the debates after they became a regular practice in 1976.

"Janet is the country’s presidential debate czar," said Overby. "She has overseen the evolution of the debates. She knows the inside stories of these historical events."

The Overby Center season will conclude on April 17 with an appearance by Tucker Carrington, director of the Innocence Project at the Ole Miss law school, and Radley Balko, an investigative reporter for the Washington Post. Carrington and Balko are authors of a new book, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist,” an exposé about misbehavior by Mississippi officials which led to the convictions of innocent defendants.

RFK's “Delta Epiphany”

Ellen Meacham, the author of “Delta Epiphany,” a new book on Robert F. Kennedy’s dramatic tour of the Mississippi Delta in 1967 and its impact on the region, was hosted at the Overby Center to talk about her research and conclusions involving Kennedy’s foray to investigate the problems of hunger among poor people.

Bill Rose, a former Overby fellow who was working as a journalist in the Delta at the time, joined Meacham in the discussion. This was the fourth in the series of programs at the Overby Center this spring dealing with social unrest in America in the 1960s that culminated in historic explosions in 1968 that included the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

“Ellen's book is a valuable addition to the corpus of written material about Robert Kennedy,” said Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie. “Though other books have touched on Kennedy’s trip to the Delta, no one has concentrated on his mission among impoverished black families, an experience that lasted only one day but helped radicalize his politics for the remaining year of his life.”

Meacham, a member of the journalism faculty at Ole Miss, not only writes of the Congressional inquiry that concluded with stops in Greenville, Cleveland, Mound Bayou and Clarksdale in April, 1967. She also explores the after-effects that still have resonance in the Delta.

“Delta Epiphany: Robert F. Kennedy in Mississippi” was published this spring by University Press of Mississippi.

Former Gov. William F. Winter, has hailed the book. “Ellen Meacham uses her superb talents as a historian and writer to record a transcendent…event in our state’s conflicted history,” Winter said.

A Conversation About Race

As the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. approaches, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics decided to host a discussion of race in America by two authorities on the subject.

Gene Dattel, the author of “Reckoning With Race: America’s Failure,” and Otis Sanford, who wrote “From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics,” were part of the “Conversation About Race” that took place on Wednesday, March 28.

Dattel, a native of Ruleville, Miss., who now lives in New York, appeared previously at the Overby Center in connection with his 2009 book, “Cotton and Race in the Making of America. Mississippian Morgan Freeman said, “Gene Dattel’s book masterfully captures America’s history and its painful legacy.”

After receiving a B.A. in history from Yale and a law degree from Vanderbilt, Dattel went to work in international finance but developed a reputation for his energetic exploration of racial problems in this country.

Sanford, who grew up near Como, Miss., and graduated from Ole Miss in 1975, is a frequent guest at the Overby Center. He had a distinguished career in journalism before joining the faculty at the University of Memphis where he holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism.

A former managing editor of the Commercial Appeal, Sanford still writes a Sunday column for the newspaper. His extensive coverage of race in Memphis led to the publication of his book in 2017. In its review, the Memphis Flyer praised Sanford for his “accuracy and grace” and called his work “a textbook case of how to handle the black and white realities of Memphis’s political evolution with appropriate shadings of gray.”

Bill Rose Tells All
by Malia Carothers (Ole Miss Journalism Major Sophomore)

Bill Rose accompanied Charles Overby in the Overby auditorium for a brief talk about Rose's life from beginning to end as a reporter and editor.

Rose gained his education and his early experience at Ole Miss. His first job was with the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville. He worked there for five years.

The awards and the work done by Rose didn't come from blazing ambition. Rose says it came from being afraid of failure. He says things just happened for his success instead of basing his accomplishments on pure ambition.

Rose's "big break" was in Florida, reporting for the Miami Herald. One of his first big stories derived from his curiosity about garbage waste leases in Miami. That story led him to discover that the mob ran the wastelands and later led to a grand jury investigation.

Rose chose to shift his position from a reporter to an editor, thinking he would be able to see his family more but was quickly shown otherwise. It was brought to his attention that editors have just as much of a workload as reporters. Although Rose felt changing his position was not the best idea, he still enjoyed the role.

He stated, "I went from a nomad roaming the south to sitting at home."

Rose received most of his awards from when he was an editor but he would still prefer to be a reporter.

After he retired, he planned to move from Florida; after thinking of a few places, he and his wife chose to move to Oxford.

He then became an instructor at the University of Mississippi.

Looking back on his career Rose gave tips for success to aspiring reporters. Rose went into details of the importance of reporters separating themselves from the pack. He also advises that a reporter should stay away from getting too close to their subjects.

"You've got to hustle more than anybody else," Rose said.

Rose declared that the press is meaner now than ever before.

"Back in the day if a writer messed up on the facts they got a slap on their back," Rose said. "but now there are federal cases."

"Prepare to work hard," Rose said as a final tip. "Know that people are not going to do everything for you."

Spring 2018 Schedule -- 50 Years Later: Looking Back on 1968

Dalton Lyon, author of “Sanctuaries of Segregation: The Story of the Jackson Church Visit Campaign,” Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and Warren Black, the retired pastor of the Oxford-University United Methodist Church took part in a discussion at the Overby Center about a campaign created more than a half-century ago to integrate churches in Jackson. This campaign is also the subject of Lyon's book.

Lyon, who now teaches history at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, first developed material on the subject for a dissertation while a graduate student at Ole Miss more than a decade ago. His book, published late last year by University Press of Mississippi, concentrates on an operation conceived by students and civil rights activists at Tougaloo College that became aimed at Methodist churches because of their the belief that the national denomination would disapprove of segregation.

Overby, a high school student in Jackson at the time, witnessed attempts to integrate his own church and was troubled by the rough arrests of a group of blacks trying to worship. During his long-time tenure with the Oxford church, Black became known as one of the community’s progressive leaders.

This program marked the opening of the Oveby Center's spring schedule. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of so many historic dates, the Overby Center is tailoring much of its schedule to reflect on the racial trauma taking place in Mississippi that had national impact.


The Overby Center for Southern Journalism & Politics’ mission is to create better understanding of the media, politicians and the role of the First Amendment in our democracy. The Center is funded through a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum, a foundation dedicated to educating people about the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.

The Overby Center features programs, multimedia displays and writings which examine the complex relationships between the media and politicians - past, present and future. The Overby Center pays special attention to Southern perspectives.

Adjacent to the newly renovated journalism department facility at Farley Hall, the Overby Center is a new building that features 16,000 square feet of conference space. It includes a 225-seat auditorium, a multipurpose conference room that will accommodate 100 people for seminars and dinners, and a boardroom seating up to 24 people.

The center has state-of-the-art technology and video throughout the building, including a news wall with nine large-screen TV monitors for showing live news programs and current front pages from 12 Southern states.

The center is named for Charles L. Overby, editor of the Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss from 1967-1968. Overby was the CEO of the Freedom Forum and Newseum until his retirement in 2012.

Overby Center Auditorium

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