School of Communication administrators removed Goodloe Sutton from the School’s Hall of Fame Tuesday morning after he endorsed the Ku Klux Klan.
Sutton was the executive editor of the Student Printz in March 1963 until February 1964, one year before Southern Miss enrolled its first African American students.
Sutton is now the editor and publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Ala.
In his editorial for the Feb. 14 edition, Sutton complained about the possible rise in taxes and suggested the KKK “clean up” the “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats” in Washington, D.C.
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” he said.
The Montgomery Advertiser talked to Sutton days after the paper was published, and he stood by his statements.
When Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown asked Sutton if the KKK was a violent organization, he said, “A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people. The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be,” he said.
In the same interview, he endorsed lynching.
Robert “Bob” Roule was one of Sutton’s classmates and was the executive editor of the Student Printz after Sutton in the spring of 1964.
After reading Sutton’s words, Roule said, “Goodloe has flipped his lid. He’s not the Goodloe I knew back in college.”
The School of Communication recognized Sutton and his wife Jean in 2007 for “journalistic excellence” after their reporting on corruption within the Marengo County Sheriff Department in the 1990s.
Mass communication and journalism professor Christopher Campbell was the director of the School when Sutton was inducted. Campbell said other journalists at the event “decried racism and lauded journalism’s efforts to combat it” with a panel of notable journalists and Jon Frazier, an African American who was denied entry into the university in the 1960s.
“Goodloe Sutton did not utter anything too remotely racist or offensive. His appearance primarily included his dramatic (and rambling) description of how he and his late wife, both former Printz editors, went about covering corruption in his small town,” Campbell said in an email.
Campbell described Sutton’s recent comments as “painful and sickening.”
“I fear Mr. Sutton’s recent comments are part of a disturbing pattern that has surfaced in our country the last few years – lots of people seem to be willing to unapologetically make horribly racist statements, inspired by right-wing radio and TV pundits and the president. Again, his comments were painful and sickening. My sense is that he probably has mental health issues and needs help, counseling and prayers,” he said.
The School of Communication released a statement after Sutton made national headlines.
“Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments,” the statement said.
“The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.
Mr. Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the School of Mass Communication & Journalism, the predecessor to the School of Communication, in 2007 based on his anti-corruption articles and editorials in the 1990s that earned him and his wife Jean numerous national and international journalism awards.
In light of Mr. Sutton’s recent and continued history of racist remarks, however, the School of Communication has removed his place in our Hall of Fame.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 72 active KKK chapters in the United States. While D.C. has none, Alabama has five.