W. Horace Carter, A Crusading Newspaperman

W. Horace Carter, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and publisher of North Carolina's Tabor City Tribune — now known as the Tabor-Loris Tribune — died this week. Carter's longtime friend, Bill Friday, speaks with Melissa Block.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Horace Carter was a North Carolina newspaper publisher whose campaign against the Ku Klux Klan earned his paper a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Mr. Carter died on Wednesday. He was 88.

To learn more about his life and what drove him to take on the Klan, we're joined by his long-time friend, Bill Friday. Mr. Friday, welcome to the program.

Mr. BILL FRIDAY (President Emeritus, University of North Carolina): Thank you, very nice to talk with you.

BLOCK: And Horace Carter stared his weekly paper in Tabor City in 1946. He was 25 years old. And it doesn't take him long before he starts writing about the Ku Klux Klan. What was the Klan doing in that part of North Carolina at that time?

Mr. FRIDAY: They were very noisy, very visible organization, riding in cars and demonstrating in that particular region of the state. And they just happened to run into Horace's jurisdiction. And he didn't like it. But to know Horace Carter, you got to understand that he was one of those great Americans, who was really raised during the Great Depression. His teenage years were the - those depression years. And like many of us, he walked right off the commencement stage straight into World War II.

And by the time that experience was concluded, he was a much older person, emotionally and in the sense of perception of what goes on in the world. And therefore, when he went to Tabor City and did what he did, even at that age, he was a wiser man, interpreting the course of events as they impact humanity. And there's where all of his previous experience came to focus.

BLOCK: What exactly was Horace Carter writing in his paper? Was it columns? Was it investigations, editorials?

Mr. FRIDAY: Editorial column, really what he did most of it. He'd have the news story, but he take his position as an editor, too.

BLOCK: He witnessed the Klan driving through black neighborhoods of Tabor City in 1950 and wrote an editorial that went in part like this, he said, sanctioning of their methods of operation is practically as bad as if you rode in their midst.

Mr. FRIDAY: He believed that, too. And you had to know this man. He was a very quite, withdrawn kind of fellow. But he had a fierceness in his judgment about what freedom really did mean. And when the Klan walked into Horace's office to threaten him with saying that if he didn't cease to do what he was doing, they would drop his advertising. He, in effect looked, at them and said so be it, let's go. And there were intimidations constantly, threats to his family. He even moved his family out of the house one night. I remember he was telling me about it because threats were real. And, you know, you don't understand this until you've looked into the eye of a face full of hate, a face full of anger. But his mind was made up and he knew this was a test that had come to him as an editor of a small town paper, and he stood up to it and he won.

BLOCK: When Horace Carter's paper won the Pulitzer in 1953, the Pulitzer Committee said that it was his writing in that paper that led to the conviction of over 100 Klansmen and an end to terrorism in their communities.

Mr. FRIDAY: I don't doubt that at all. That was a fair summation. It has been an active organization ever since it was formed back Civil War time, post-Civil War time. But Horace was the force that turned it around. And I don't think anybody, especially with no historian in the state, disagree with that.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Friday, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. FRIDAY: You're very kind to call.

BLOCK: That's Bill Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina remembering his long-time friend, the newspaper publisher, Horace Carter, who died on Wednesday at age 88.

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