Bill Minor, R.I.P.

More than 30 years ago, I was editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper on the Gulf Coast that was owned by Gannett. A prominent citizen and former mayor, who had lost his re-election bid, died. I had to write the customary obituary editorial for the late mayor. I was never his fan. He was often nasty and mostly rude to the city aldermen that served with him. I decided not to be a hypocrite and the best I could say in my editorial was that he was a man who very much cared for the city of Ocean Springs. Earlier this week I recalled the mayor when I learned Bill Minor had passed at the age of 93. I was sad to hear of his death, and there is no question Minor made many contributions to Mississippi during his long career. After someone texted me Tuesday morning about Minor’s death, I went to the Clarion-Ledger online edition where I saw the headline on reporter Jerry Mitchell’s story. The headline was, “Bill Minor remembered as a model for journalists.” From my perspective, I would never consider Minor as a “model for journalists.” His left-wing politics was one thing, but I objected far more to his liberal bias and his frequent carelessness with the facts. During my days as an editor and syndicated political columnist, I was once on a panel at Ole Miss with Minor, the late Norma Fields of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and a TV anchor from Jackson. Every member of the panel was asked who they were supporting in the race for governor that was taking place at the time. I went last, but Minor and the two other journalists righteously wrapped themselves in a self-serving cloak of objective journalism. They refused to tell the students who they would vote for in the upcoming election. When it was my time to answer, I told the students not only would I tell them the name of the candidate for whom I would vote, I proceeded to tell them, correctly, who each of the other journalists supported. An outraged Minor then chased me across campus after the panel ended and demanded to know why I answered how I did.

A bitter man

Following another speaking appearance before a large group of students at Ole Miss, I was approached by a young black student. She told me she had heard Minor speak a few weeks

earlier and how would I describe Minor. I thought a moment and replied that I felt Minor was a very “bitter” person. As a black student and because Minor fought many battles against racism, I expected her not to like my answer. She quickly responded that a “bitter” man was also the way she would describe Minor. Thirty or forty years ago, it was the norm for candidates for major office the state to close their campaign with an hour or 30 minutes TV special. William Winter was a candidate for governor at the time and his election eve special was a bogus, staged press conference. Minor was a participant and helped orchestrate the paid campaign ad for William Winter. Again, not very objective journalism or good journalism. Eventually I moved on to Washington, D. C. Shortly after I moved, Minor was honored with a prestigious national award. Along with then Congressman Gene Taylor and Taylor’s press secretary, I attended the award luncheon. The attendees was like a Who’s Who of prominent political and journalism figures. Speaker after speaker, including a member of the Kennedy family, spoke in praise of Minor and his contributions to Mississippi. Almost every speaker noted the role Minor had played and how much Mississippi had changed from its terrible days of segregation  and racial violence. When it came time for Minor to speak, the first words out of his mouth was that the state had not really changed. At a later date, Minor wrote a nasty column about Jamie Whitten, the powerful and long serving chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Working in the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, I knew Minor’s column about the very respected Whitten was not close to being factually correct. At an inaugural ball when Bill Clinton was elected president, I ran into Minor when my daughter and I entered the event. My timing was not good, but I promptly told him his nasty column about Whitten was uncalled for and was not even close to the facts. Minor did make major contributions in his reporting of political corruption in the state. However, he never mentioned the corruption of his wealthy, trial lawyer son, Paul Minor. Paul Minor was convicted and served time in federal prison for bribery. The stories about Minor’s death also mentioned his tenure as editor of the weekly Capital Reporter in Jackson. What most people do not know is that a newspaper publisher in the state loaned Minor a significant sum of money to start the newspaper. Minor never made any effort to repay the loan. When I returned to Mississippi after more than 18 years in Washington, Minor was still frequently spewing hate in his column. I recall telling people that I wondered what Republican politician Minor would spew hate about in his weekly column.

Minor took several cheap shots at Sid Salter

Veteran columnist Sid Salter wrote a very fair column after Minor died this week. Salter mentioned some of the issues he had with Minor. What Salter did not mention is that on more than one occasion, Minor wrote columns taking very cheap shots at Salter. At those times Salter could have easily fired back about the distortions in the columns Minor wrote about him, but to his credit, he didn’t return the nastiness that Minor directed towards him.

Bill Minor was not a model for journalism nor the conscience of Mississippi

After the newspaper’s headline calling Minor a “model for journalism”, the print edition of the Clarion-Ledger had a big front page headline calling Minor “The Conscience of Mississippi.” No, I regret that Minor passed and appreciate the many contributions he made to our state, but he was neither a “model for journalism” nor the “conscience of Mississippi.”  R. I. P.  

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  • charliestogner

    Thanks for an honest view of Bill Minor. I met Bill back in 1860 at a dinner at the home of the McComb Enterprise Journal publisher Oliver Emmerich.

    Bill was not one to let facts get in the way of a headline and while he and I had a somewhat pleasant personal relationship I long ago realized he was prone to play loose with them.

    I’m saddened to see him go but I must agree with you, “he was no model for journalism or the conscience of Mississippi.