Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers
Congratulations to Al Povall, author of "The Time of Eddie Noel"! His book just received an Honorable mention in the True Crime Category at their Book of the Year Awards!
In January, 1954, about eighteen months prior to young Emmett Till’s murder, and only forty miles away, a young black man named Eddie Noel shot and killed a white honky-tonk operator named Willie Ramon Dickard. The killing took place in southwest Holmes County, Mississippi, a place drenched with violence and soaked with moonshine whiskey, where a black man could be killed just for looking at a white man “wrong.” Dickard’s killing by Noel led to formation of perhaps the largest posse in Mississippi history, its members fueled by hatred, outrage, and in some cases, white lightning. Noel took on elements of the posse in two gunfights, killing two more white men and wounding three others. Then he disappeared into the woods of southwest Holmes County, as one reporter said, “Like a whippoorwill.”
Noel was never caught, never tried, never convicted, and never went to prison. And though he confessed to the three killings, he avoided both a lynching and a date with “Old Sparky,” Mississippi’s venerable, and grisly, electric chair. In the end, he spent the last 22 years of his life living peacefully in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
A three-time murderer, Noel’s crimes made young Emmett Till’s infraction – “wolf-whistling” a white woman – look like child’s play, which, of course, it was. So how did Noel, unlike Emmett Till, beat the lynch mob? Beat the posse? Beat the system? Avoid almost certain death?
This is the story of how and why these things happened. It is the story of a time and a place and a social system that are long past. And it is the story of a young man, who defied extraordinary odds and a system that had condemned him to a certain death form the moment he stood up to a white man. Eddie Noel’s story also implicates Hazel Brannon Smith, the courageous editor of the local newspaper, whose coverage of Eddie Noel and subsequent events led to a Pulitzer Prize, but also to her economic and social demise at hands of the town she loved.
The Time of Eddie Noel is a rich history filled with colorful details of a time and a place when the Deep South stood at the threshold of the civil rights movement, which would forever change both the region and the social system that governed the lives of its people, both black and white.
This story reminds us of how far we have come as a country, and more specifically in the South. But one can also see that we still have a ways to go. If you haven't picked up this book yet, I encourage you to buy it either in print on e-book form!