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Friday, December 6, 2013

A Life Is More Than a Moment

Editor's note: Barbecued Adventures will be relaunched in early 2014 with new posts about barbecue, pitmasters and related travel. This post dates back to Jan. 6, 2011. Thank you for reading and please come back often.

The genesis for this food blog was an unplanned barbecue pilgrimage that my wife Donna and I took to San Antonio in late December 2010. We wanted to escape winter and experience “a whole other country.”

Our road trip to get there took us from Bloomington, Ind., though southern Illinois, Arkansas and deep into the "Heart of Texas."

We had never been to our first stop along the way, Little Rock, Ark. But one of my favorite journalism professors at Indiana University, Will Counts, had taken me there before.

As a photographer for the Arkansas Democrat, Will had documented the desegregation crisis at Little Rock's Central High School in September of 1957. He should have won a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

One of his photographs showed a 15-year-old black student, Elizabeth Eckford, outside the high school with a white girl, Hazel Bryan Massery, yelling at her from behind. It was named by The Associated Press as one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th century and later became the reason for an acclaimed 2011 book by Vanity Fair writer David Margolick.

But he was denied the honor because of a decision by the Pulitzer board of directors. They felt that four prizes for coverage of a single event would be too much.

In 1997, Will and his wife, Vivian, arranged for Eckford and Massery to reconcile and they later appeared on Oprah.

He reflected on the experiences in his 1999 book, "A Life Is More Than a Moment."

Even though I pursued a career as a writer, Will was something of a mentor to me, as he was for many others. After returning to IU, we spoke often and I appreciated coming over to his home for a taste of Neely’s Interstate Barbecue, which he had FedExed up to Bloomington.

As I saw signs for Central High School, I reflected upon my friend. Will passed away in October of 2001, a victim of cancer. Like Birmingham, another flash point during the civil rights struggle, Little Rock seems like a better city today.

In my next post, you’ll learn about a barbecue joint Will would have loved. It’s also a favorite haunt of another Arkansas native son, Bill Clinton. We made a couple of visits to Whole Hog Cafe, which you shouldn't miss as you travel through the Natural State.

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