In 1983, as a reporter for The Birmingham News, I wrote several stories looking back at the events of 1963. I worked with other reporters to track down many of the school children who had heeded Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to march in downtown Birmingham. Most of them, like Bernita Roberson Sawyer, had been jailed. She was 14 at the time, not much older than me, and had spent five days in jail. They described what it was like to be in jail as children and recalled how those events had shaped their lives as adults. In June, I wrote a 20-year retrospective on Gov. George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama. Most of the key figures of that day were still alive, including Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who was still angry 20 years later about being made to stand in the sweltering sun while Wallace made his stand in the shade. Then in September, 20 years after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls, I had a front page interview with Chris McNair, the father of one of those girls, Denise.
Olivia Barton Ferriter
Birmingham native Olivia Barton Ferriter is a former reporter and Washington correspondent for The Birmingham News and Newhouse News Service where she wrote about politics, environmental issues, civil rights, equal rights and race issues among other assignments. She was recognized by Lincoln University with a Unity Award for a special report on race relations in Alabama, published in 1979. She also served as press secretary and Appropriations Committee associate staff for then Congressman Tom Bevill (D-Al), helping to create the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Northeast Alabama. She later became a public servant with the U.S. Department of the Interior, retiring in 2018 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition. After 40 years in Washington, DC, Olivia moved back to Birmingham in May 2023 with her husband John, sons Matthew and William, and black labs Jack and Daisy.