On Thursday, Jan. 9, at 10 p.m., North Carolina Public Television (UNC-TV) will broadcast “The Editor and the Dragon: Horace Carter Fights the Klan.”
The hour-long documentary tells the story of newspaper editor W. Horace Carter’s resistance to a Ku Klux Klan uprising in Columbus County and Horry County (S.C.) during 1950-53. The film also examines Carter’s counterpart, Klan Grand Dragon Thomas L. Hamilton.
On a July night in 1950, Carter watched as 30 cars filled with armed, robed Klansmen made their way through Tabor City, a small town on the North Carolina-South Carolina border. The event marked the beginning of three years of turmoil as Carter, his town, and the surrounding communities witnessed large Klan rallies, gunplay, abductions, assaults and murder; a saga fueled by KKK ambition and the uncertainty of rapidly changing times as the South confronted race relations and the new challenges of the Cold War.
Carter, then the 29-year-old editor of The Tabor City Tribune, a weekly publication, would be observer, participant, commentator and conscience to these events, standing against the Klan and jeopardizing life, livelihood, friendships and his family’s safety.
For Carter’s editorializing and reporting on Klan activities, his newspaper earned the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, as did The News Reporter of Whiteville. Carter and News Reporter editor Willard Cole, who is also depicted in the film, took on great risk and ultimately received numerous awards and recognitions for their anti-Klan stance.
To present the story, the film utilizes interview comments from Carter and others, excerpts of Carter’s editorials, archival film footage, and dramatic reenactments. Morgan Freeman narrates the documentary.
The film is directed and produced by Martin Clark and Walter Campbell of Memory Lane Productions, working in association with The Center for the Study of the American South at The University of North Carolina. Clark is an Elizabethtown native (East Bladen High class of 1982) now living in Chapel Hill. He is the son of former Bladen County Superior Court Judge Giles R. Clark. Campbell is a Georgia native making his home in Durham.
The documentary premiered April 2013 at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, and has since been chosen to screen at The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (Ark.), the Cucalorus Film Festival (Wilmington), and The Mississippi International Film Festival (Jackson, Ms.), where it was awarded “Best Documentary.”