New Orleans Times-Picayune journalist Wilson F. “Bill” Minor was born in Hammond, Louisiana, and received a scholarship to attend Tulane University, graduating in 1943 with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science. While in school, he worked with the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, and after graduation he joined the US Navy, serving on a destroyer in the Pacific.
Minor began his newspaper career in Mississippi in 1947 when the Times-Picayune assigned him to its Jackson bureau. He remained in that position until 1976, leaving only when the paper closed the office. He declined an offer to run the Los Angeles Times’s new bureau in Houston and the Times-Picayune’s offer to move him to Washington, D.C. Instead, Minor remained in Jackson, launched a career as a syndicated columnist, and developed a legislative reporting service. He bought the Northside Reporter, a small suburban weekly, in 1973 and a few years later transformed it into the Capitol Reporter, which focused on covering politics. The paper was forced to close in 1981 because of an advertising boycott, threats from the Ku Klux Klan, and insufficient capital.
During his three decades in Jackson, Minor covered the state’s battles over desegregation, the Emmett Till trial, James Meredith’s efforts to enroll at the University of Mississippi, and the loosening of Mississippi’s liquor laws. His reporting was noted for its accuracy, a feature not common among the state’s newspapers, most of which opposed desegregation.
Minor attributed his liberalism to growing up in poverty under the New Deal and its programs. His father, Jacob Wilson, was an alcoholic from Mississippi who worked only sporadically as a printer. The family often survived on commodity programs. Minor continued to write hard-hitting syndicated columns on state politics. He was considered the dean of Mississippi political reporters, and his sometimes fiery writing often served as readers’ conscience.
He received the 1966 Louis Lyons Award from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, the 1997 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism presented by the Annenberg School for Communications of Pennsylvania, the 2001 Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award presented by Natchez Newspapers, and a 1972 Silver Em from the University of Mississippi. The Mississippi Press Association has also named its Best Reporting Prize and its General News Reporting Prize awards after Minor.
Minor was the author of Eyes on Mississippi: A Fifty-Year Chronicle of Change, which is based on more than 160 of his columns. He also contributed to Alexander Lamis’s book, Southern Politics in the 1990s and was the subject of a 2015 documentary film, Bill Minor: Eyes on Mississippi, by Ellen Ann Fentress and Lida Gibson. He died 28 March 2017 in Ridgeland at age ninety-four.
- Michael L. Cooper, Southern Changes (August–September 1992)
- David R. Davies, ed., The Press and Race: Mississippi Journalists Confront the Movement (2001)
- Wilson F. Minor Papers, Special Collections, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University
- Jerry Mitchell, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (27 May 2003)
- Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation (2006)
- Time (21 August 1978)