The Delta Democrat-Times and the Carters

The Delta Democrat-Times, in Greenville, Miss., under the leadership of Hodding Carter II, and later his son, Hodding Carter III, advocated fairness and equal rights in the Mississippi Delta.

Carter II, a Louisiana native, moved to Greenville in 1936 to start a paper, which eventually merged with another to become the Democrat-Times.

In 1946, the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Carter’s editorials about racial and economic intolerance toward Japanese immigrants.

The Greenville paper frequently opined on racial integration in the 1960s, although Carter’s son, Hodding III, said his father did not consider himself an integrationist.

“We were not a liberal paper,” Carter III recently told The Sun. Carter III, an Emmy-winning journalist, served as an assistant secretary of state under President Carter and is the president of the Miami-based Knight Foundation, a charity.

Still, his father’s stance on discrimination and voters’ rights wasn’t a popular one in the Mississippi Delta. The elder Carter often likened discrimination to “moral sickness,” and argued that subjugating blacks damaged the white community.

“Dad thought there ought to be a level of decency,” Carter III said. “He believed Southern blacks, even under the absurd voting laws, should be able to vote.”

The paper passed into Carter III’s hands in the mid-1960s, and he and the staff became “100 percenters” against segregation.

Carter III said the same kind of paper – outspoken against the white establishment – might not have thrived in Jackson. “There was a broader sense of the world in Greenville” because many Greenville merchants were Catholic, Jewish and Lebanese descendants who were not offended by the paper’s stance.

“They weren’t 100% Southerners themselves,” Carter III said.

Will Campbell, who was forced out as chaplain at the University of Mississippi for his integrationist views and is now a nationally known author, says Carter’s stand was braver than Carter III describes.

“The Greenville Delta Democrat-Times was enlightened under the leadership of Hodding Carter,” Campbell said. “The Charlotte Observer gave some leadership on integration. The Raleigh News and Observer also stepped out. But for the most part, the Southern press didn’t have much to be proud of.”

Campbell said papers were pressured by white leaders – and white money – to downplay civil rights.

Mrs. Betty Werlein Carter served as the paper’s publisher for many years.