William Browning, an Ole Miss journalism student a decade ago, has an interesting account of “David Halberstam’s Mississippi Apprenticeship” in the latest Columbia Journalism Review. In it, Browning tells the story of the awkward relationship between the daring, liberal young Harvard graduate – who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and fame – and Henry Harris, the very conservative editor of The Daily Times Leader in West Point, who gave Halberstam his first job. The $46-a-week assignment that began in 1955 lasted only eight months, and it is amazing that Halberstam and Harris lasted that long together.
Despite his differences with Harris, Halberstam developed a life-long affection for Mississippi, and, later, for Ole Miss, where he occasionally lectured and delivered the commencement address shortly before his death in an automobile accident in 2007. After his daughter, Julia, worked in the Mississippi Delta for the Teach for America program, the Halberstam family directed memorial contributions to the Delta project.
“There are those who find small-town complexities of ordinary people compelling enough for a whole career,” said Charlie Mitchell, assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “It’s equally true that those who are most effective when they advance to larger issues and audiences usually have gained insights into the foibles of humanity and gained context for everything they do from a small-town mayor and aldermen debating whether to add a fountain in the town park.”
Browning served as a reporter for the Greenwood Commonwealth after leaving Ole Miss and is now managing editor of the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Mississippi.
Professor Joe Atkins remembers Browning as an outstanding student who showed a great deal of promise. Another former teacher, Curtis Wilkie, called Browning, a product of small-town north Mississippi, “a diamond in the rough” who has the talent to go far in journalism.”
Read Browning’s article at cjr.org.