On this day in Alabama history: Pulitzer Prize winner Hazel Brannon Smith died

On this day in Alabama history: Pulitzer Prize winner Hazel Brannon Smith died
Etowah County native Hazel Brannon Smith (1914-1994) was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and supported the civil rights movement while running newspapers in Mississippi. She was awarded the prize in 1964 for her career of editorializing in the face of strong opposition and the threat of violence. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Mississippi State University Special Collections)

May 15, 1994

Alabama native Hazel Brannon Smith, who in 1964 became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, died in Tennessee at the age of 80. Smith was born in Etowah County and got her first newspaper job at 16. After graduating from the University of Alabama, she became owner of the Durant News in Holmes County, Mississippi. She went on to own and manage several other newspapers in the South as her former segregationist views began to evolve. By the middle 1950s she had become an outspoken opponent of racial discrimination and began to express it in her papers. Facing threats of violence as well as financial intimidation, Smith stood her ground. The Pulitzer committee noted Smith’s “steadfast adherence to her editorial duties in the face of great pressure and opposition.” After years of failing health, she died in a nursing home. She was buried alongside family members in Gadsden.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Newspaper editor and publisher Hazel Brannon Smith, in hat, at a Mississippi Press Association Convention during the early 1950s. Her early journalistic writings supported segregation, but she gradually shifted toward supporting the civil rights movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Mississippi State University Special Collections)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

Related Stories