Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Labor South roundup: Journalist Bill Minor's early career chronicled in new documentary; famed burlesque performer Blaze Starr dies; and UAW wins at auto parts plant in Mississippi

This Labor South roundup ranges from a new documentary on trailblazing Mississippi journalist Bill Minor and the recent death of famed New Orleans burlesque performer Blaze Starr to a United Auto Workers victory at an auto parts plant in the Mississippi Delta

Mississippi journalist Bill Minor’s early career tracked in new documentary

(Journalist Bill Minor during a birthday celebration in 2012)

The documentary Bill Minor: Eyes on Mississippi premiered at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., June 14 with hundreds on hand to celebrate a legendary journalist who has been covering Mississippi politics since 1947. Among those in the crowd were former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, Civil Rights-era leader Ed King, and former black state legislator Robert Clark.

Minor, 93, who reported on Mississippi for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, his own publication Capitol Reporter, and in his statewide syndicated column, covered every major event during the tumultuous 1950s, 1960s and beyond, including the 1955 trial of Emmett Till murderers J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the 1962 Ole Miss riot, and the 1964 murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner.

Unlike much of the Mississippi press, Minor covered these events with a sharp eye on and total commitment to truth and telling it like it is.

Produced by veteran journalist Ellen Ann Fentress and edited by Lida Gibson, the documentary follows Minor’s career through the Neshoba County, Miss., murders of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner. A sequel is tentatively planned. The documentary included lengthy interviews with Myrlie Evers, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and the late journalist Claude Sitton, among others.

Minor continues to keep his “eyes on Mississippi” in his weekly columns. At the event this past Sunday, he told the crowd, “Let’s hope we elect the kind of leadership Mississippi needs to enjoy the kind of progress the rest of the nation has seen.”

Blaze Starr, famed mistress of Louisiana Gov. Earl Long, dies at her West Virginia home

Fannie Belle Fleming, 83, better known as burlesque performer and stripper Blaze Starr, died at her home in Wilsondale, W. Va., this week. She had been experiencing heart trouble.

As Blaze Starr, she became nationally famous in 1959 because of her involvement with Earl Long, the populist three-time governor of Louisiana who has been featured in Labor South several times. She had been a performer at the Sho-Bar club in New Orleans.

Starr's relationship with Long was depicted in the 1989 movie "Blaze" featuring Paul Newman as Earl Long and Lolita Davidovich as Blaze.

Starr later confided to friends and relatives that Long was the love of her life. She must have been a great source of comfort to Long, who had major battles with family members, including his wife, as well as with political opponents in the tumultuous last year of his life.

UAW victory at auto parts plant in Mississippi

A strong majority of workers at the Faurecia Automotive Seating plant in Cleveland, Miss., voted in favor of joining the United Auto Workers earlier this month.

The workers have complained of low wages, poor working conditions, and the French-owned company’s practice of hiring temporary workers.

 The UAW continues to mine the potentially rich soil of the U.S. South with an ongoing campaign at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., and a continuing presence at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and other plants across the region.

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