David Margolick pays tribute today in a New York Times op-ed to Jerry Dhonau, the former Arkansas Gazette editorial writer who died recently. He recounts Dhonau’s dropping of journalistic non-involvement to help form a protective cordon around a besieged Elizabeth Eckford during the desegregation of Central High. He also mentions other aspects of Dhonau’s career chronicled in Ernest Dumas’ obituary. But he set it in a modern-day context.
That’s Dhonau at far left in the photo. Margolick, who wrote a book — “Elizabeth and Hazel: Two women of Little Rock” — about the more famous Will Counts photo of Hazel Massery shouting at Eckford that morning
To some that day, Mr. Dhonau and his ilk were very much “enemies of the people.” Members of the mob tried toppling the telephone booths from which he and other reporters were transmitting what they had just seen to the rest of the world.
That night, Mr. Dhonau received angry, anonymous phone calls. And twice the F.B.I. awakened him — not to ask him what had happened that day, but to find out whether the Times reporter had indeed egged on the crowd, as some locals had claimed.
The Gazette would suffer institutionally in advertiser and reader boycotts for opposing Gov. Orval Faubus and endorsing the rule of law. Other forces would close
“We will take our leave,” he wrote in The Gazette’s final edition, “mindful of the words of St. Paul, who wrote, ‘I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.’”
And so, too, did he that day in 1957. “Enemies of the people”? Let’s have more of them.