Hazel Brannon Smith

Hazel Brannon Smith was the owner and editor of four weekly newspapers in rural Mississippi and was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. Her editorials in her column (“Through Hazel Eyes”) focused on unpopular causes, political corruption and social injustice in Mississippi. She also received awards from the National Federation of Press Women, the Herrick Award for Editorial Writing, the Mississippi Press Association. She was president of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors from 1981 to 1982. In 1954, when the local sheriff shot a young black man in the back, Mrs. Smith wrote in a front page editorial in The Advertiser that the sheriff had violated “every concept of justice, decency and right.” As a result of her stance, Mrs. Smith’s newspaper became the target of an economic boycott, and the Segregationist White Citizens Council started an opposition paper. The boycott lasted 10 years, drained Mrs. Smith financially and eventually forced The Advertiser to close. But she continued to speak out against racism and bigotry.  Hazel Brannon Smith is in both Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders and in Pieces from the Past in an essay by fellow journalist Bill Minor.