Journalism legend Stanley Dearman died Saturday – Jackson Clarion Ledger
Each day brings more claims about fake news, real news, fake journalists and real journalists.
Want to know what a real journalist looks like? Look no further than Stanley Dearman, an 84-year-old retired editor who died Saturday.
For 34 years, he edited The Neshoba Democrat in Mississippi, covering everything from the city council to the sheriffâs department to the zoning board. Each week, he read through wedding announcements and obituaries to make sure all the names were spelled right.
But there was something that continued to bother him â the Ku Klux Klanâs 1964 killings of three young civil rights workers.
What bothered him was that no one had ever been prosecuted for murder in that case, and in 1989, he began writing editorials, calling on his community to address the crime that for so long had tarred the name of Neshoba County. He called on his community to prosecute the very killers who shared the sidewalks he did in downtown Philadelphia.
People in town told him to leave it alone. They told him to forget it, but the truth is, Stanley Dearman never forgot.
He remembered when hate boiled over the summer of â64. He remembered how members of the community â and the governor, too â claimed the disappearances of James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were nothing more than a hoax. He remembered when flies filled the air after a bulldozer dug up their bodies 44 days later.
By 1989, many had forgotten that summer, but not Dearman, whose stories showed these young men were far from âoutside agitators and troublemakers.â They were fresh-faced kids anxious to see that all Americans had the right to vote.
As the years passed, he kept penning editorials, raising the issue again and again. He traveled to New York to interview Goodman’s mother, Carolyn, and the two became fast friends.
Even after he sold the paper in 2000, he never gave up. He became a leader in a new group called the Philadelphia Coalition, which broke down racial barriers and in so doing, changed a community.
A town that had long been silent now spoke publicly and with great force through the coalition, which successfully pushed for prosecution in the case.
On June 21, 2005, a jury found Edgar Ray Killen guilty for orchestrating the killings that had so long haunted Dearman and his community.
And when I glanced over at Dearman, tears flowed freely down his face. The more he wiped away, the more that others stained his cheeks.
On Saturday, Neshoba County native Dick Molpus recalled Dearman as âabsolutely fearless and strong but was also a kind and gentle man who loved to play classical piano. He was blessed with an internal moral compass that drove his courageous work as a journalist.
âFortunately he lived long enough to see the fruits of his labor when his beloved home town of Philadelphia united across racial lines to bring a significant measure of justice for the murders of those young men in 1964. This momentous step would not have occurred without this remarkable man.â
In 2007, I had the honor of speaking when Dearman received the Silver Em Award â the highest journalism award from his alma mater, the University of Mississippi.
I told those gathered, âStanley Dearman is a legend in journalism, and he will never be forgotten in Mississippi history because Stanley Dearman never forgot.â