Eugene Patterson has died at the age of 89. The celebrated columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor succumbed to complications of prostate cancer on Sat., Jan. 12, 2013. B.J. Phillips, a spokeswoman for Patterson's family confirmed the sad news of Patterson's death, according to a Yahoo! News report.
Patterson was editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960 to 1968. In 2002, a selection of Atlanta Constitution columns by Patterson was published under the name "The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights, 1960-1968." The book was edited by Roy Peter Clark and Raymond Arsenault. The tome included what was perhaps his most famous column, which was entitled "A Flower for the Graves." It was written the day after four black girls died in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
Walter Cronkite himself invited Patterson to read "A Flower for the Graves" live on the CBS Evening News on Sept. 16, 1963. Patterson complied.
To honor Patterson upon the sad news of his death, The Tampa Bay Times has reproduced "A Flower for the Graves" online. The following is an excerpt. You may read it in its entirety here.
"We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.
The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug."
Eugene Patterson, dead at the age of 89. May he rest in peace.