This story was published July 30, 1972, in “Florida,” the Sunday magazine of the Orlando Sentinel. Reporter Tom Fiedler and I had been visiting Klan events and members working on a story about its recent resurgence in Central Florida.
The most visible action the Klan took was a parade in full KKK garb down the main streets of Lakeland, Fla. It was the first of several trips to the area Tom and I made to photograph and interview Klansmen and their families.
One of the first rallies it held after the parade was a cross-burning where white-robed and -capped Klansmen paraded in a circle around a burning cross after hearing a collection of speeches espousing its racist tenets.
Tom and I arrived at dusk and immediately split up as I had little time to take photos before it got too dark for anything other than the cross-burning. Tom wanted to talk to the principals, most of whom I’d already photographed.
After a few minutes, I was approached by a robed Klansman, his white hood in hand.
“Who do you work for?” he asked as he stepped just inside my social distance.
“The Orlando Sentinel,” I replied.
“You’re not Tom Fielder are you?” he asked.
After I answered I wasn’t he wanted to know if Tom was at the rally. I lied and said id he was at the rally he came alone and I didn’t know where he was or even if he was there.
As he turned to walk away he leaned into my face and told me he was very angry with Tom about the story he wrote about the parade.
Tom’s lede for the story read – “The bedsheet shenanigans of the KKK were revived Saturday as more than xxx marched through downtown Lakeland.” (I don’t remember the exact number.)
Tom wasn’t surprised that he’d angered a Klansman. He was properly proud that one of their numbers had been offended.
Another Monday visit to the Braun Farm where summer is in full force with thistles developing its blossoms that invite butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to their attractive and fruitful blooms.
The summer also presented and abundance of the invasive Mediterranean chickory and its vivid blue flowers growing along the edge of Cooper Road.
The distance between us
Bob and I sat about ten feet apart, separated by more than a measured distance.
We were of different generations. He was as old as my father. I was the Boomer. Again, a measurement that didn’t explain why he was difficult, angry, impersonal.
Perhaps it was that we belonged to different unions and our duties sometimes appeared to overlap.
Bob was very protective of the tasks outlined in his contract. I was instructed to stay on my side of the aisle between us even though our shared responsibilities required frequent communication, collaboration, and the passing of papers and equipment. Still, if there was any hint that I strayed beyond my territorial limits or intruded on his duties, I would soon be on the receiving end of a verbal tirade or the subject of an official grievance.
We rarely talked about anything beyond work. Talk about family, our personal lives, and sports were brief with little-shared insight that might allow me to better understand Bob.
Other technicians weren’t nearly so quick to anger over transgressions. We often shared our woes about the Braves, a new BBQ restaurant, traffic, MARTA, family mishaps, hunting trips, and past exploits.
I thought Bob’s demeanor might have been the product of a long-ago contract dispute resulting in a lockout and failure of my union to honor picket lines. It happened long before I began working in the office. Even then, the dispute didn’t anger other technicians enough to make it difficult to have conversations beyond what was necessary to get our jobs done.
Bob played golf. I didn’t. I knew he liked to play after overhearing him talk about a specific course he’d played.
One day I brought Bob a copy of Time magazine with a cover story about golf becoming a global phenomenon. Knowing Bob’s affection for the sport I offered it as a gift, a way of showing my understanding of his pleasures. And, perhaps to soften him up a bit. Little did I know.
I stepped halfway into the narrow aisle between our desks, leaned into his space, head bowed, and offered the magazine. He accepted my totem with a grunt, glancing at the cover before setting it aside and returning to his work.
Later I heard the impossible. “Hey, Kid. Come over here. Look at this.”
I’d knew that Bob’s space was private, a shrine both personal and professional and that I was not allowed to enter no matter the reason.
Now I was being told to step across the threshold, to cross the divide.
Bob held up the magazine, its pages spread open. He pointed to a photo.
“Look at this! I was there!” he said, pointing to the small image. He was excited, his voice evoking a joy I’d never heard before.
Like a child bathed in the excitement of the invite, I moved to look over his shoulder at the photo keeping my feet ready for a quick exit when he realized where I stood.
The photo showed a small lagoon, it’s blue water and coral beach ringed by lush foliage under a sky with clouds casting no shadows across the postcard-perfect fairy tale view. It was the site of a new golf course, an indicator of how the sport has moved even onto small South Pacific islands.
“I was there. That’s where I landed.” he continued to explain.
I quickly looked at the caption to see which island held this idyllic lagoon.
I began to understand. Marine. Guadalcanal.
For several hours, I listened as Bob found his voice.
Each story he told began with his head down in reverence to the memory. At its conclusion, he lowered his head returning to the reverential pose.
There was little excitement in the telling. Each sentence seemed measured, weighted with memories of the battles that created them. Nervous laughter filled the empty spaces between tales where death, or fear, or futility, or the smell and viciousness of death, revealed his history.
Dead Marines. A hilltop several feet shorter after a battle against Japanese fighting from the high ground. Layers of dead Japanese soldiers, their bodies tossed down the incline by the soldiers ordered to replace them. The search for and discovery of alcohol to anesthetize the new wounds. His friend dying during the search.
More battles continued when he returned, his ship docking in San Francisco. Stories of infidelity, drinking, and fits of anger tempered his return home. There was more nervous laughter but this time it punctuated his personal battle against an invisible enemy.
He never went into battle again although he trained for the invasion of Japan, a task that ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I’m not sure when our conversation ended. Perhaps when his relief came to work. Maybe I stepped across the aisle to do my work and I didn’t get invited back. All I remember is Bob, his head down, staring at that photo.
Bob and I never spoke about that afternoon. The conversation was a one-time exposition of his Marine experience.
We continued as coworkers for several more years until I moved to another bureau. Bob no longer seemed angry, so quick to disagree, no longer hostile to transgressions.
Then again, maybe I no longer let these emotional outbursts get the better of me. I knew about Bob and Guadalcanal.
Photo Credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=379350
February 13, 1935 was probably the first case of a major news organization incorrectly reporting a courtroom verdict because of a radio communications fail – the birth of Fake News!
“Fake News,” or mistaken reporting, has been around as long as someone has attempted to relay, restate, or report an event. In the case of the Hauptman verdict, it was technology that created the problem, not the people reporting. Today, technology has amplified the human problem and added more voices to the creators and critics of news reporting. – Gary Gardiner, 2019
“If you listened to the radio reports which gave the jury’s verdict on that eventful night when they walked into the courtroom, you will remember that the first verdict given over the broadcast stations was to the effect that Hauptmann had been found guilty, with a recommendation for mercy, which meant life imprisonment. A few minutes later a second broadcast came over the networks to the effect that he had been found guilty of murder in the first degree, which meant the electric chair.”
With the anniversary of the Wayne Williams trial beginning 40 years ago this month some of my old photos of the story are resurfacing. Among those is this one of a grieving mother at her son’s funeral. There is a second photo of mine of Wayne Williams leaving jail for the courthouse
I covered a number of funerals during the child murders and was always more than happy to be told the family didn’t want photographers in the church. It was possible to get good, storytelling photos from across the street. Most of the principals in the continuing story knew the photographers and allowed us good access when required.
My schedule was changed to make Saturday one of my normal work days because that day was when more people participated in searches for missing children. Saturday was also the preferred day for funerals of the ones who were found.
I was surprised to read the headline on the story linked below, “The Atlanta Child Murders Through The Eyes Of People Who Reported On It,” and see four AP photos without any reporting about the photographers who covered the story. Photographers from the AJC were exceptionally important in telling the story. None were interviewed.
“The Atlanta Child Murders started 40 years ago this month, and for people like Pearson who covered the case — who lived and breathed that dark period in the city’s history — the memories remain vivid.
“The headline of the Tuesday, March 31, 1981, Atlanta Constitution — before it became the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — simply read ‘Body of youth found in Chattahoochee.’ Those six words shared the front page with multiple stories of President Ronald Reagan’s improving condition following being shot by John Hinckley Jr. a day before.”
It was all about the children. Black children, mostly boys, were missing and found dead throughout Atlanta. In some cases they were strangled, in others stabbed and shot.
I really have very little to say about this photo of a young boy. My wife and I were leaving a small-town grocery store when he and his dog stepped out of the car next to ours.
I remarked how much I like his dog and his affection for it. I then told him, with his parents nearby, that I wanted a quick photo to remember the meeting.
This is the result.
Taken on my iPhone 5s and processed in an app whose name I do not remember.
It’s a few years since the oil crisis of 1973 when I shot this photo of cars lining up at a gas station on Davie Blvd. at I-95 in Ft. Lauderdale. That being said, all I can think of when looking at this photo is wondering about the price of all these cars on the vintage and restored auto market. I’ll take the Mustang and the VW.
It’s almost 40 years since the oil crisis of 1973 when I shot this photo of cars lining up at a gas station on Davie Blvd. at I-95 in Ft. Lauderdale. The price of crude oil doubled during the crisis…
Warmer and drier weather increases the variety and volume of fresh vegetables offered at the Uptown Westerville Wednesday Farmers Market. New this week is the first fresh corn of the season and greater stocks of tomatoes, potatoes, squash, zucchini, and garden beans.