Jason Zengerle, another victim of Haley Barbour's sudden abandonment of the campaign trail, has published a wonderful little piece in GQ about Barbour and Yazoo City:
Mott eventually became one of Yazoo City's most progressive voices, penning editorials in the Herald that ultimately paved the way for the successful integration of Yazoo City's schools in 1970. (In his book about that achievement, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town, Willie Morris, a racial liberal and Yazoo City's most famous son, wrote of Mott: "If they give a Pulitzer Prize for an editor who speaks from deep inside himself, from travail and a personal recommitment, then he deserves it.") But, like Barbour with The Weekly Standard, Mott could not bring himself to condemn everything about the way things had once been. "Let me tell you a story," he said, after we had been in his car for close to an hour and were now driving down some of the same streets for the third and fourth times. "I ain't never told this story, and maybe I shouldn't be telling it to you."
Mott said that one early morning in the mid-1960s, the salesman who worked for the office supply business that was attached to the Herald called him in a panic. "He said, 'I need to see you right away,'" Mott recalled. "He lived up on the hill near Hayman's Bluff, and I went up there to see him and he met me with no shirt on, unshaven, and he was holding a .45 pistol." The salesman told Mott that he had been working undercover for the FBI to help infiltrate the local Klan, but that his cover had been blown, and now he needed $500 so he and his wife and child could leave town. "I didn't have five hundred dollars, so I called Haley's uncle." Together, William and Haley's mother, LeFlore, who worked as William's legal secretary, went to meet with the salesman at a local motel—and, in exchange for $500, he told them the names of all the local members of the Klan. ""And, the result of that, through economic pressure, some of those would-be Klan leaders were treated just like the blacks were treated who signed that petition," Mott said."And they left. No violence. Never. And nothing illegal. Economic pressure. 'Hey, you owe me money. Pay me now or I'll sue.' That kind of stuff. They foreclosed on loans or mortgages and drove you out of business. Gone. And that's what they did. Now that's probably not a point, but that's who they were."
It is hard not to wonder whether that episode is what Barbour had been referring to when he made his remark about the Citizens Council helping to make sure Klansmen "got their ass run out of town." He wasn't just talking about some abstract group of town leaders. He was talking about his uncle and his mother and perhaps repeating a piece of family lore.
The piece also Barbour's photograph appearing on the front page of the Yazoo Herald, flanked by one article inviting all "white citizens" to appear at a meeting, and an editorial advocating that whites find ways to subvert the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It's another great piece of journalism by Jason. And another reminder that there are no winners in the Barbour withdrawal.