A Garden Party

When alumni of The Southern Courier reunited in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2006, four decades after they had covered civil rights at the height of the movement, the reception they received was markedly different.

advertiser logo

April 6, 2006

'Southern Courier' staff members enjoy garden party

By Deborah Hayes Moore

A cloudless sky helped create the perfect ambience for a garden party at the lovely Montgomery home of Dean and Nelson Malden Saturday night.

Nelson Malden, a local barber, also served as sales manager for the old Southern Courier newspaper in the mid-1960s. The recent gathering was one of many festivities associated with the publication's former employees' return to the Capital City for their first reunion in 40 years.

The Maldens have kept in contact with Robert Ellis Smith over the years, and suggested to the Courier's former editor and reunion coordinator that the group's arrival be scheduled during the Montgomery Bus Boycott 50th anniversary year and in conjunction with the Clifford and Virginia Durr Memorial Lecture Series, hosted annually at Auburn University Montgomery.

Former editor Michael Lottman was among the group of Harvard Law School graduates who came to Montgomery in 1965 to start the Southern Courier publication, during the turbulent years of the civil rights struggle. The return of Lottman, Smith and staff photographer Jim Peppler for the Durr Series held a personal significance. They were among the many Courier staff members who resided at the Durr family's Felder Avenue residence while they worked to influence social change four decades ago.

Though several of the Courier's staff members were recruited from the Capital City environs to join the assemblage of reporters, photographers, editors and technicians, others were spread out across the state to help capture the images and news that other papers were not as eager to print. Several of them arrived at the Malden home last weekend to rekindle old friendships and recall their missions during those early days.

Southern Courier co-founder Ellen Lake arrived from Oakland, Calif., and was among those mingling in the Maldens' dining room and meeting Pulitizer prize-winning author Taylor Branch of Baltimore. Branch was in town to serve as featured speaker for the Durr Lecture Series and enjoyed the cocktail party with Durr Foundation representative Peter Zacher and several Durr family members, including Ann Durr Lyons of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Tiller Durr of Sweden, Mass.; and Durr cousin Jacques Hammel, who arrived from Israel for the special weekend.

They joined other guests as they floated between the home's interiors and gardens to enjoy cocktails and musical entertainment throughout the evening by Rudolf Flye.

Personal Touch Caterers displayed a variety of scrumptious hors d'oeuvres amid three candlelit round tables placed around the yard, which were covered in blue and white cloths with white overlays custom designed by the hostess. Guests chose from hot grilled vegetables, prime rib croissants, teriyaki chicken, colossal shrimp, bite-sized twice-baked potatoes, and an assortment of desserts and other delicacies. But the focal point of the evening was a strawberry tree constructed on the Maldens' patio. The succulent centerpiece was topped with fresh spring blossoms and surrounded with an assorted of cheeses, chocolate amaretto and pistachio crème.

Then and Now

Bob Smith, who arrived for the party with his son Jon, is now an author and publisher of the Privacy Journal Newsletter in Providence, R.I. Smith paused mid-way during the gathering to introduce his former co-workers and share memories of those years ago.

Michael Lottman is now an attorney and chairman of the Quality Review Panel in Nashville. He arrived to share the reunion experience with his son, Jon.

Peppler is currently a photographer with NewsDay in West Babylon, N.J., and provided a continuous slide show during the night of photos during taken during the newspaper's beginning days.

Gloria Bradford, Peppler's lab's technician, is now retired and continues to live in Montgomery. She attended the cocktail gathering, as did former Courier executive editor Mary Ellen Gale, currently an attorney in Pasadena, Calif.

Former editor Barbara Flowers Howard, who is now at Tuskegee University, enjoyed the festivities with her daughter, Khandi Flowers, and her sisters, Rubye Braye of Wilmington, Del., and Princella Wade of Jonesboro, Ga.

Margaret Dabney, the Courier's compositor, is currently a Head Start teacher in Montgomery. She was there, as was one of the Courier's early reporters, Norman Lumpkin, and his wife, Thomasina, as well as other reporters, managers, cartoonists and technicians, including Robin Reisig, now a professor of journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School in New York; John Tornow, a writing instructor at the University of Washington, and his wife, Joan; WSFA-TV producer Arlam Carr Jr., of Montgomery; author Jack Kramer of Washington, D.C., and his wife, Milagres; attorney Stephen Cotton of Andover, Mass., and his wife, Becci; John Diamante of San Francisco; Geoffrey Cowan of Los Angeles; Jim Willse of New Jersey; Martha Honey of Washington, D.C.; Jay Wiener of San Francisco; Kenneth Lumpkin, a newspaper editor from Racine, Wisc.; and Franklin Howard of Montgomery.

Laughter and shared memories were the hallmarks of the evening, which culminated in the singing of old Freedom songs enjoyed by Jeannie and Robert Graetz, Judge Myron Thompson and his wife, Ann, Kevin Kish, Southern Poverty Law Center co-founder Morris Dees, Harvard Crimson reporter Stephen Fee of Cambridge, Mass., Ed Bridges, Margrette Smith, Bob Wrley and his daughter, Mardy Adams, both of Brookline, Mass., Sarah and Will Campbell of Lancaster, Pa., Alicia Carroll, Wanda Lloyd, Kim Hammach and Grace Bishop of Wetumpka, Ronda and Patrick Thomason of Montgomery, John McClenney and Mary Clark and Georgette Norman of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.

Copyright © 2006 The Advertiser Co.