Reporter to sign books in Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It all starts in Marengo County for Alvin Benn, as he and a trio of Ku Klux Klansman share a few drinks outside Linden, just before the Klansmen were retried for the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo.

Benn, and accomplished newspaper journalist and writer, will be in Demopolis this Thursday for a book-signing of his first book, “Reporter, Covering Civil Rights … and Wrongs in Dixie.”

“I have always enjoyed coming to Marengo County,” Benn, who has covered Alabama events and politics since early in the Civil Rights Movement, said.

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“This is a project I have been working on for years. I started in 2000,” Benn said.

Benn received endorsements for the book from Alabama luminaries including U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and Alabama folk author Kathryn Tucker Windham.

“After a long career of responsible and, at times, courageous reporting, Benn brings his probity to his vivid memoirs. He gives journalism a good name,” Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” said.

Alvin started his writing when he was in the U.S. Marine Corps approximately 45 years ago, and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan during his service time of service.

“I have had fun working at newspapers,” Benn said.

In 1964, journalist Benn started working as a wire service reporter for United Press International in Birmingham.

The book begins on June 5, 1965 where Benn and two others drive to Chickasaw State Park in Linden to investigate the happenings with W.O. Eaton, Eugene Thomas and Collie Leroy Wilkins, who were accused of shooting civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo.

“It all begins in Marengo County,” he said.

Benn has interviewed well-known characters from the state’s history, including Martin Luther King, Jr., George Lincoln Rockwell, Alabama Gov. George Wallace and Paul “Bear” Bryant. Benn also interviewed Wernher von Braun, who was one of the men who helped aided in the creation of Saturn 5, which was the rocket that was launched in the 1969 lunar trip.

Benn is currently a reporter and columnist for the Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery and lives with his wife, Sharon, in Selma.

“I work on Saturdays and write two columns a week,” Benn said.

The book is dedicated to his wife, Sharon Ann.

Sharon and Alvin have been married for 42 years and have two children, and four grandchildren.

Benn’s book-signing will be in the Coplin Building at 7 p.m. this Thursday, May 25. The cost of Benn’s book is $25.