Auburn Journalism Professor Ed Williams calls his friend Kathryn Tucker Windham and asks if his
Newswriting class can make a road trip to Selma, Ala., to interview her for a class project on Nov. 18, 2009.
She says "Yes, come on!"
"Perhaps Jeffrey will make an appearance too."
Kathryn Tucker Windham welcomes us to her Royal Street home.
"Come on in!"
A field trip to Selma, Ala.,
Kathryn Tucker Windham
Auburn University Newswriting Class
Fall semester 2009
Nov. 18, 2009
Newswriting students present Kathryn Tucker Windham an Auburn T-shirt
(She yells "War Eagle!" and the students even join with her in playing Auburn's fight song on a comb.)
And we all get a comb to take home that says: "Making Music Together in Selma, Alabama"
Kathryn Tucker Windham
Kathryn Tucker Windham was born in a hospital in Selma and grew up in Thomasville surrounded by her extended family.
She became interested in the newspaper business at an early age, assisting her cousin, the editor of the Thomasville Times, and writing movie reviews for the paper. She also became interested in photography after receiving a Brownie camera in a Kodak promotional giveaway. Windham attended Huntingdon College, where she worked on the college newspaper.
After graduating with an AB in 1939, Windham worked as a freelance journalist. In 1941, she was hired as a police reporter and feature writer by the Alabama Journal in Montgomery. In 1943, Windham moved to Birmingham to work for the U.S. Treasury Department promoting war bond sales. She missed journalism, however, and began working for the Birmingham News in 1944.
In 1946, Windham and her husband moved to Selma, where she wrote freelance articles while raising her children. In the early 1950s, she also wrote a locally syndicated newspaper column, “Around Our House.” After her husband’s death, Windham worked for the Selma Times-Journal from 1960-1973. Windham was community relations coordinator for the Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Regional Planning and Development Commission’s Area Agency on Aging for four years in the mid-1970s.
Windham’s first book, Treasured Alabama Recipes, was published in 1967. Perhaps her best-known book, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, cowritten with folklorist Margaret Figh, was published in 1969.
In 1974, Windham was invited to participate in the second annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. She became a founder of the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling and has served on its board of directors.
She continues to perform at festivals across the South and has made recordings of her stories. In 1984, Windham began doing radio commentaries for WUAL, the public radio station in Tuscaloosa. For eighteen months in the mid-1980s, these were also broadcast by National Public Radio.
Also in the mid-1980s, Windham wrote and began performing My Name Is Julia, a one-woman play about the life of Alabama educator and reformer Julia S. Tutwiler. Alabama Public Television filmed and aired a special version of My Name Is Julia in 1993.
Windham published a memoir of her experiences as a journalist, Odd-Egg Editor, in 1990. Windham’s early interest in photography has continued throughout her life. The first public exhibition of her photographs took place in 1993, and she has published several books of photographs.
In 2000, Windham received the Alabama Humanities Award from the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
Interests and Themes
Our "class schedule" for the day...
1. Cross the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge and arrive in Selma.
2. A driving tour of Old Live Oak Cemetery
and downtown Selma, its historic churches and homes.
Newswriting class group photo in Selma's historic Old Live Oak Cemetery.
Damian, our Tiger Transit driver, shoots our photo!
One of the few cemeteries in the South on the National Register of Historic Sites,
Old Live Oak is the resting place of more than 8,000 people.
Several famous women are buried in Old Live Oak including: Elodie Todd Dawson, staunch Confederate supporter and sister-in-law of Abraham Lincoln; Harriet Hooker Wilkins, the Selma suffragist who in 1922 became the first woman elected to the Alabama Legislature; Clara Weaver Parrish, member of one of Selma's first families and internationally known artist who also is noted for Tiffany stained glass designs (several are in Selma churches); and Frances John Hobbs, well known suffragist who sewed the most valuable treasures from her jeweler husband's shop into her petticoats, saving them from Union Army looters.
Other historic burial sites include those of William Rufus King, founder of Selma, U.S. senator and vice president of the United States; Benjamin Sterling Turner, Alabama's first black congressman; N.H.R. Dawson, Confederate colonel who later was appointed U.S. commissioner of education; John Tyler Morgan and Edmund Winston Pettus, both Confederate generals who later became U.S. senators; Catesby ap Roger Jones, commander of the Confederate ironclad Merrimac (or Virginia) and of the Confederate Naval Ordnance Works at Selma; and the Rev. Arthur Small, a Presbyterian minister who died in the Battle of Selma.
Group photo in front of Brown Chapel AME Church whick played pivitol role
in the Selma, Ala., marches that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
2. Lunch at (Hancock's Barbeque).
Deborah Hancock (Auburn University Class of 1974 graduate!) takes our orders.
Most of us order (what else?) THE BARBECUE!
And it was delicious!
4. Interview Kathryn Tucker Windham at her Royal Street home.
Conducting interviews in the back yard by the bottle tree.
Her advice to Auburn student journalists:
"Listen and Remember"
Mrs. Windham signs students' copies of "Odd-Egg Editor."
The book, an autobiography of Kathryn Tucker Windham's exciting and memorable
career as a newspaper reporter, was required reading in Jrnl 2210/Newswriting,
fall semester 2009, taught by Professor Ed Williams, Auburn University
Department of Communication and Journalism.
One student reporter even asked her about the severed leg she keeps in her den!
Let go of my leg! Everyone got to hold the fake leg.
Class even gets interviewed by Selma Times-Journal reporter.
Students view the works of Charlie Lucas "the tin man" next door to Mrs. Windham.
5. As the sun sets, we stop for group photo on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge became a symbol of the momentous changes taking place in Alabama, America, and the world. It was here that voting rights marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965. The day became known as Bloody Sunday.
The march resumed on Sunday March 21, with court protection through Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. "The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups...," said Judge Johnson, "and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways."
This time, 3,200, versus the initial 600, marches headed east out of Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and on to Montgomery. Marches walked 12 miles a day and slept in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- the best possible redress of grievances.
6. Back in Auburn, writing about our field trip to Selma to meet and interview Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Students write about their road trip to Selma, Ala., on Nov. 18, 2009,
to meet and interview Alabama treasure Kathryn Tucker Windham.
And Mrs. Windham even writes us a thank you note!
Web page and photos
Ed Williams, Professor
Department of Communication and Journalism
220 Tichenor Hall
Thank you, Mrs. Windham!
Newswriting class poses for group photo
with Mrs. Windham in front of her bottle tree in the back yard
By the way, you do know about bottle trees, don't you?
For those who believe the folklore, they transform her backyard into an enchanted garden.
According to ancient African myth, bottles on trees could catch evil spirits and prevent them from entering a home. In the 18th century, Africans who came to the South as slaves adorned cedar trees with bottles for protection, said Robert Farris Thompson, African and African American art historian at Yale University. The color blue also signified healing powers.
"Bottle trees are an important element of African-American visual culture," Thompson said. "They will always be with us - like okra, hominy and black-eyed peas."
Even into the late 1950s, bottle trees glistened in out-of-the-way backyards in the rural South. Stories such as Eudora Welty's "Livvie," published in 1943, preserved the lore.
(See article from The Denver Post)
Thanks for visiting our
"Field Trip to Selma to interview Kathryn Tucker Windham" Web page
Auburn University Newswriting class
Fall semester 2009