On Saturday, former newspaper editor and columnist Eugene Patterson died at the age of 89 due to complications from prostate cancer, said a family spokesperson. Patterson's involvement in the civil rights movement opened the eyes of many southern whites to the importance of equality for all. On Jan. 13, NY Times posted the details on the moving piece Patterson wrote that shook the nation. The following text is an excerpt from the piece,
‘‘A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham,’’ Patterson began the column. ‘‘In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.
‘‘Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand. ... We who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate. ... (The bomber) feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us. We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.’’
Patterson wrote this touching piece after seeing the aftermath of a church bombing that killed four black girls. After being asked by an emotional Walter Cronkite, Patterson read his touching piece, "A Flower for the Graves," during a live interview on CBS News.
Patterson's work as an editor of the Atlanta Constitution won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1967. For eight years he wrote about civil rights issues even when many newspapers in the South would've rather not covered the subject.
Eugene Patterson will be remembered as a prominent civil rights activist who believed in equality for all, and he will be missed.