A courageous media voice in the Deep South passed last weekend. Charles Tisdale, editor of The Jackson Advocate -- a feisty black newspaper in the Mississippi capitol -- died at the age of 80 on Saturday.
Tisdale didn't see any boundaries between his life as a newspaper editor, radio commentator on Jackson's WMPR, and bold civil rights activist. He was a bold voice for racial justice -- but he was uncompromising in his willingness to challenge all people, black or white, who abused power and violated the public trust. When I first ran across Tisdale, he was hounding the Jackson city government for its misguided plans to privatize vast sections of public services, including the city police force.
Tisdale also paid dearly for his tireless advocacy. When I first met him, he had just coming off a violent attack on the Advocate's offices, as the AP describes:
Tisdale faced repercussions for his outspokenness. Tisdale often said he was the target of death threats. His newspaper office near downtown Jackson was firebombed at least twice. The latest was in 1998, when gasoline was poured over the furniture and molotov cocktails were thrown through windows.
The 1998 attack caused $100,000 in damage. Clinton Moses, of Jackson, later pleaded guilty to the crime and told authorities that a member of the Jackson City Council had paid him $500 to commit the firebombing. Then-council member Louis Armstrong was never charged in the case.