Editor In Chief Glynn Wilson It is with mixed emotions that I write this column for the summer issue of The Southerner. I am excited about the improved look and the interesting content we provide in this issue. But we have lost a friend of the people and a great political reporter.

    Birmingham Post-Herald political columnist Ted Bryant suffered a stroke on June 28 and died Wednesday, June 30, at St. Vincent's Hospital on the south side of Birmingham.

    "He knew politics better than anyone," Gov. Don Siegelman told the Post-Herald. Siegelman, who met Bryant in 1972, often quoted an unidentified reporter who blamed Alabama's poor academic and economic standing on poor gubernatorial leadership. That reporter was Bryant, Siegelman said. "He laid the blame at the feet of Alabama governors. I will always use that for my guidepost."

    Bryant often ended his columns with the sometimes practical, sometimes irreverent observations of Redd Kneck, a fictional composite of the typical Alabama voter. Sometimes it was a vehicle for quoting political insiders. At other times it was a way for Bryant to voice his own opinion of governors or the Legislature. After nearly 40 years of covering Alabama politics, Redd Kneck and Bryant tended to come down on the side of working people. While Alabama's conservative politicians may have considered Bryant liberal, in fact he was more like a philosophical conservative populist, always a civil libertarian, who did not believe in government intervention in the private lives of individuals, economically or socially.

    I had the opportunity on a number of occasions to talk politics with Bryant, most memorably at his favorite watering holes in Gulf Shores, Ala., where he frequently took breaks when the Legislature was not in session. I remember being struck by the fact that Bryant always carried a carton of Vantages in his briefcase. He loved nothing more than lighting a smoke, sipping on a Bud, and talking politics. He didn't care much for opportunistic politicians like George Wallace (who also died this past year after a long, painful life in the aftermath of a would-be assassin's bullet). And Bryant didn't have much confidence in the Montgomery crowd to make positive changes of any kind, including the so-called "New South" progressive Gov. Don Siegelman, elected last year.

    We had talked to him about serializing his book of rememberances on Wallace in The Southerner. According to Post-Herald president and editor Jim Willis, it is not clear whether Bryant ever finished the book. And that's too bad, because Bryant's and Wallace's careers spanned roughly the same period in history. Bryant started at the Post-Herald in 1960, while Wallace was gearing up for his first successful run at the governor's office, which he won in 1962. It's just an odd coincidence that they died within a year of one another.

    To read the Post-Herald's feature obituary, turn to the June 28 Metro Section. And keep his family in your prayers.

Summer Content

    A number of readers have commented on the inaugural issue of The Southerner, in Reader Forum. Please take the time to read what they had to say and let us know what you think.

    The issue of suburban sprawl is making its way onto center stage in politics and the media, so we decided to make that the cover story for the summer issue. We hope this will generate some dialogue on finding a way to rescue Southern cities from their concrete and asphalt bunkers — although like Redd Kneck, I'm not sure we have much hope.

    We are extremely proud to bring you a short story from Brian Griffin, writer-in-residence at the University of Tennessee's Gorgas Library. We also recieved permission from Rosanna Warren, the daughter and trustee of Robert Penn Warren, to sponsor the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction. Please send us your best short stories and help us honor one of the best Southern writers ever.

    In case you didn't know, Warren is the only writer in American history to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and poetry. He graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1925, the year of the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Rhea County, Tenn. He studied at Berkely, Yale and Oxford. Beginning in 1930, he was published in I'll Take My Stand, the manifesto of Southern Literary Agrarianism, and later founded and edited The Southern Review, an influential literary journal from which we at The Southerner take a certain progressive tradition. All The King's Men, his most memorable work, is arguably the best Southern novel ever. I re-read the introduction on occasion to remind myself how to root a story in the land, and to recall the way our region was stripped of its trees in the first half of this century.


We continue the Secret Vista department this month with a vignette from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, one of the most scenic drives in the South. In Essays, Jack Neely interviews Roy Blount, Jr. on age, humor and talks with mama.

    In R & R, Managing Editor Ron Sitton turns us all onto Disc Golf, an offbeat sport making it's way around the region. In Lab & Field, John Lee takes us down Appalachian Trials with his dad J.D. Lee and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

    In Bottom Line, Bob Hess says there is hope for Southern farmers. In Bar & Grill, Steve Harner loves the ribs, but comes away a bit disappointed with the brisket after Banjo Dan's Guitar-Throwing Competition in Hot Springs, Ark. In Southern Culture, Eric Nyberg interviews Muddy Waters' drummer Willie "Big Eye's" Smith at the W.C. Handy Festival in Memphis, Tenn. In Southern Sounds, Ron Sitton reviews new releases from Taj Mahal, Tom Petty, The Regulators, and more. And of course we're always on the lookout for interesting and fun Southern events to list in our calendar, so please send us your listings.

    We are saddened by Bryant's death. But we are pleased to bring you the latest TS tour. Turn here to begin reading The Southerner from cover to cover, . . . er, front to back on the Web.

    Or if this is your first visit, you might want to turn back and read my inaugural welcome. We hope you'll come by and visit us often.


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Copyright The Southerner 1999.