William Bradford Huie was born and raised in Hartselle, Ala. He attended the University of Alabama, graduating with an AB in 1930 (he later earned an MA, as well). From 1932 to 1936, Huie worked as a reporter for the Birmingham Post. From 1941 to 1943, he was the associate editor for the magazine American Mercury in New York. Huie served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1945, then returned to American Mercury after the war and was its editor and publisher from 1945 to 1952. From mid-1951 through mid-1953, he was a regular interviewer on the CBS television program Chronoscope, a predecessor to news interview shows like Meet the Press and Face the Nation.
Huie began writing and publishing books in the 1940s. His first novel, Mud on the Stars, was published in 1942, as was his first nonfiction book, The Fight for Air Power. He continued to publish while serving in the Navy and drew on his military experiences for both his novels and his nonfiction books. Huie began writing books on civil rights issues in the 1950s. Wolf Whistle described the murder of Emmett Till, while Three Lives for Mississippi told the story of the murders of three civil rights workers. His novel The Klansman inspired death threats, and a cross was burned on the lawn of his Hartselle home. He Slew the Dreamer was the story of James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Unafraid of controversy, Huie was working at the time of his death on a book about the Alabama National Guard’s involvement in the 1961 Bay of Pigs incident.
William Bradford Huie wrote on controversial topics in a strong reportorial style. He was one of the most prominent proponents of “checkbook journalism,” the practice of paying for interviews. In his view, it was better to pay for interviews than to let the stories go untold.
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Photo courtesy of Martha Hunt Huie.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.