East Georgia State College Associate Professor of History Dr. Jeff Howell recently published a book entitled Hazel Brannon Smith: The Female Crusading Scalawag. The book looks at a female pioneer in journalism in the Deep South. Smith earned a national reputation in 1940s Mississippi by fighting bootleg alcohol and corrupt Sheriffs. Later, she earned national recognition in her fight for free speech, a free press and civil rights. She was the first woman to earn the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1964. Her story demonstrates the complex response of white “liberals” during the height of racial oppression in 20th century America.
“I grew up in Holmes County, where HB Smith made her mark,” said Dr. Howell. “In 2003, I was in graduate school at Mississippi State and I had to write a 30-page paper on a historical topic. I went to the MSU library and saw that Hazel’s papers were there. I thought that was odd, since I didn’t think she was that big a deal. I was wrong!”
“I was fascinated with her career and ended up writing a Masters’ thesis about the civil rights movement in Holmes County,” he continued. “She was a chapter in the book. Then I noticed that a few had written articles and a layman’s biography about her, but no one had written a scholarly biography about her. I wrote my PhD dissertation on her career. Later, I revised it and it became this book.”
Dr. Howell teaches on EGSC’s Statesboro campus. He has been with the EGSC family for eight years. He is originally from Mississippi. He and his wife, Anita, have one son, Justin.