AUBURN – Jerry Mitchell, whose reporting for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger helped lead to the arrest of several Klansmen, will be this year’s speaker for the Neil and Henrietta Davis Lecture Series on Friday, March 9, at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.
Most recently, Mitchell’s reporting helped lead to the Jan. 24 arrest of James Seale in connection with the 1964 abduction and killing of two African-American teenagers, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.
The Davis Lecture Series was established in 1996 to honor longtime Lee County newspaper executives and AU alumni Neil and Henrietta Worsley Davis.
“Jerry Mitchell is an ideal speaker for this lecture series,” said John Carvalho, director of Auburn’s journalism program. “We seek to commemorate the Davises’ courageous support of civil rights as Alabama newspaper publishers in the 1950s and 1960s. Jerry’s work carries on the tradition established by journalists like Neil and Henrietta Davis.”
Mitchell was a 2006 Pulitzer Prize-nominated finalist in the beat reporting category. The Pulitzer committee noted his “relentless and masterly stories on the successful prosecution of a man accused of orchestrating the killings of three civil rights workers in 1964.”
The committee was referring to Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted of three counts of felony manslaughter in 2005, 41 years after the murders of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.
Mitchell’s role in the conviction of Byron De La Beckwith was featured in the 1996 film “Ghosts of Mississippi.” Beckwith was convicted of murder in 1994 for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers.
Jack Simms, founding Journalism Department head, said, “The Davis Lecture Series has been a very high-quality program with outstanding speakers each year. It is a jewel among programs of its type in the country.”
Mitchell’s awards include the 2005 Columbia University John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism; the 2005 Tom Renner Award for Crime Reporting from Investigative Reporters and Editors; and the 1999 National Sigma Delta Chi Award for public service.
Mitchell earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Harding University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University.
The late Neil Davis founded the Lee County Bulletin in 1937, and served as publisher and editor for 40 years. He was a 1935 Auburn graduate and a Nieman Fellow. Henrietta Davis, also a 1935 graduate, was the newspaper’s associate editor and chief reporter.
(Contributed by Victoria Santos.)