The decades-long ribbon of prose that spilled from Ayers’s pen captured the epochal milestones of our times, such as the 1965 March on Washington, the civil rights movement, the rise and decay of the New South movement, the South’s transformation from a bulwark of Democratic entropy to a heartland of irascible conservatism, and the election of the republic’s first black president.
Cussing Dixie, Loving Dixie: Fifty Years of Commentary by H. Brandt Ayers includes Ayers’s unforgettable descriptions of the political giants of Alabama’s turbulent twentieth century. Of George Wallace he wrote: “He lost his way in the swamp of racial politics, squandered his great talent for leadership, and, cruelly, has made his most devoted followers bear the consequences.” And Ayers memorably hymned Supreme Court justice Hugo Black as having “made of the Bill of Rights a trumpet which kept calling the nation back to its original purpose.”
Ayers was so known for his passionate crusade for a fair deal for “the plain people of both races” of Alabama that enemies dubbed his family’s newspaper “The Red Star.” A loyal son of Alabama who extolls Southern culture, Ayers unapologetically calls for Alabamians to cast off the moribund ideologies of the past. He jousts against obscurantism itself: “When fear and ignorance snuff out the brains of a man,” he thunders, “he is reduced to the level of a jungle predator-a flexed mass of instincts.”
Writing from a generous heart, Ayers enlivens and enlightens. Eschewing the hifalutin, his artful writing is both accessible to the people and admired by the learned. Far from provincial, his far-ranging eye landed often on global events, and he persuasively frames the state and region as an active front on which key national issues hang.
Ayers ranks among the most prolific and insightful chroniclers of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Alabama. Cussing Dixie, Loving Dixie: Fifty Years of Commentary by H. Brandt Ayers is a monument to his enduring legacy and relevance.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
From the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first, the Ayers name has been synonymous with progressive journalism. H. Brandt “Brandy” Ayers graduated from the University of Alabama and later studied at Harvard and Columbia. He served as a Washington correspondent for the Raleigh Times (now the Raleigh News & Observer) and covered Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department for a news bureau serving newspapers in the South and the Southwest. He later led the Anniston Star during the civil rights era. He was founder and president of the L. Q. C. Lamar Society, an institutional expression of the New South movement.
Journalist Carol Nunnelley worked for newspapers in Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham from the 1960s through 2000. She wrote and edited prize-winning coverage of race relations, the environment, and the state’s challenges in education, poverty, and its justice system. She was managing editor of The Birmingham News and is the author of Building Trust in the News: 101+ Good Ideas for Editors from Editors and Janie Shores: Trailblazing Supreme Court Justice, a biography for young readers.
PRAISE FOR CUSSING DIXIE, LOVING DIXIE
“H. Brandt Ayers deserves credit for longevity, also for courage and insight, as a small city Southern publisher with a liberal bent and a ready pen. His Cussing Dixie, Loving Dixie: Fifty Years of Commentary by H. Brandt Ayers, drawn from the pages of the Anniston Star, offers valuable documentation of the growing pains (sometimes the shrinking pains) of the New South. It offers considerable reading pleasure, too.”
—Sam Hodges, author of B-Four and editor of For the Love of Alabama: Journalism by Bailey Thomson and Ron Casey
“You cannot comprehend America without understanding the South, and no one has done more in our time than H. Brandt Ayers to explain the South—its history, its folkways, its cultural distinctiveness—to interested students and thankful readers. Brandy Ayers is the best kind of journalist: His empathetic eye is attached to a critical brain; and like the South itself, his words are eloquent, plain-spoken, funny, and impassioned. These collected essays are a natural resource for future explorers of the past half-century.”
—Philip Terzian, Weekly Standard
“Its hard to imagine a more admirable journalistic life than the one lived by H. Brandt Ayers, one of the great southern newspaper proprietors who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to throw in with the civil rights movement during American’s years of trial. This collection deserves to be widely read by-and will be cherished by-all those, north and south, who love the American story.”
—Seth Lipsky, New York Sun
“In a state where statesmen have sometimes been in short supply, Brandt Ayers has bravely stepped up time and again to point out when we are acting on our worst instincts while claiming they are our best. This collection of his columns over the decades is not only a short course in American history but also a tribute to the brillant career of Alabama’s journalism giant.”
—Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution and A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968
6 X 9, 312 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1896-3 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8930-7 Ebook