For his efforts leading to the convictions of criminals from the Civil Rights era, including the murderer of NAACP worker Medgar Evers, as documented in the film Ghosts of Mississippi, investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell will receive the 2006 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College.
Photo by James Patterson
Mitchell, who writes for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, will receive the award and an honorary doctorate from Colby, and will give the Lovejoy address, on Sunday, September 17, at 8 p.m. in Lorimer Chapel on the Waterville campus. The public is invited to attend.
Given annually to a courageous journalist, the award honors another individual who fought for racial justice: Lovejoy, a Colby alumnus and an abolitionist publisher, who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837.
Mitchell’s work has led to the trials and convictions of four Ku Klux Klansmen: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 killing of Evers; Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the firebombing that killed the NAACP’s Vernon Dahmer in 1966; Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley; and Edgar Ray Killen for helping orchestrate the 1964 killings of Freedom Riders Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman.
“Whether it involves festering wrongs from the past, or unresolved injustices today,” said retired Boston Globe editor and chair of the Lovejoy Selection Committee Matthew Storin, “the struggle for racial equality continues in this country, though many of us would just as soon forget that. Jerry Mitchell won’t let us. Year in and year out, living among the people he both pleases and angers, he ensures that truth marches on.”
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, Mitchell has received many awards and honors. He has been profiled by Nightline, USA Today, The New York Times, American Journalism Review, and others. He has regularly appeared as an expert on CNN and the Lehrer News Hour, among other programs.
Lovejoy was a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby whom John Quincy Adams called “the first American martyr to the freedom of the press.” Colby established the award for an editor, reporter or publisher who has contributed to the nation’s journalistic achievement. Recent recipients include Bill Kovach, David Halberstam, Ellen Goodman, Studs Terkel, and Daniel Pearl, who received the 2002 award posthumously.
Mitchell was selected by a committee of distinguished newspaper editors chaired by Storin, currently a professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame. Committee members include Rebecca Corbett ’74, deputy bureau chief of The New York Times‘s Washington bureau; Greg Moore, managing editor of The Denver Post; Ann Marie Lipinski, vice president and editor of The Chicago Tribune; Rena Pederson, former editor at large of The Dallas Morning News; Colby President William D. Adams; and Professor L. Sandy Maisel, director of Colby’s Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.