NBC correspondent to join literary festival

Published 8:49 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

Longtime NBC space correspondent Jay Barbree and New York Times best-selling author Douglas Blackmon are set to grace the stage at the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center for the Georgia Literary Festival today.

Barbree, a Blakely native, holds the distinction as the only journalist to have covered every manned U.S. space launch.

His eighth book, “Live from Cape Canaveral: Covering the Space Race from Sputnik to Today,” recounts the author’s 50 years in pursuit of the stories that have shaped America’s space program.

Email newsletter signup

Warm and perceptive, Barbree reminds his readers just how thrilling the great moments of the space race were and why America fell in love with its heroic, sometimes larger-than-life astronauts.

The book, journalist and colleague Tom Brokaw writes in a preface, “is [Barbree’s] up-close and personal account of a half-century of space exploration. It tells the stories of the courage and genius of the pioneers. … A thousand years from now, historians will mark this time as the beginning of the greatest age of exploration ever. Jay Barbree takes you on that first giant step for mankind.”

Barbree began his career at WALB in Albany, where his passion for space exploration grew from observing the spent booster rockets of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. He paid his own way to Florida to cover the Vanguard launch and joined NBC News from Cape Canaveral in 1958.

Barbree’s NBC space unit won an Emmy for its coverage of the first Apollo moon landing.

Through his investigative reporting and connections in the space industry, he broke the world news exclusive on the cause of the Challenger explosion.

In addition to “Live from Cape Canaveral,” Barbree’s works include “Bicycles in War, A Journey Through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope,” “Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon” and “Pilot Error: A Novel.”

Blackmon’s historical exposeDouglas Blackmon is the best-selling author of “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II,” a groundbreaking historical exposé that brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history, when a cynical new form of slavery was resurrected from the ashes of the Civil War and re-imposed on hundreds of thousands of African-Americans until the dawn of World War II.

According to Blackmon, the neoslavery system exploited legal loopholes and federal policies that discouraged prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their wills.

“[Slavery by Another Name] creates a broad racial, economic, cultural and political backdrop for events that have haunted Mr. Blackmon and will now haunt us all,” Janet Maslin wrote in a New York Times review of the book. “And it need not exaggerate the hellish details of intense racial strife. The torment that Mr. Blackmon catalogs is, if anything, understated here. But it loudly and stunningly speaks for itself.”

Over the past 20 years, Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town. Many of his stories in the Wall Street Journal have explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct and racial segregation.

Most recently, an Oct. 17 story titled “Two Families Named McCain,” has stirred much contradictory reaction.

The front-page piece explores the lives of the descendants of slaves owned by the ancestors of Sen. John McCain and the relationships between the white and black families.

Blackmon started his writing career at the age of 12, when he wrote his first newspaper story for the Progress in his hometown of Leland, Miss.

He graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., and currently lives in Atlanta, where he is bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and manages the paper’s coverage of airlines and other major transportation companies and publicly traded companies and institutions based in the southeastern United States.

Blackmon has worked as a reporter covering race and politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and managing editor of the Daily Record in Little Rock, Ark.

The Georgia Literary Festival is co-sponsored by Georgia Center for the Book, Georgia Humanities Council, Bainbridge College Foundation, Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library Foundation, United Way of Bainbridge-Decatur County, Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust, Wal-Mart, Georgia Power, Dean Chrysler, Ivey Funeral Home, Cox-Ware Funeral Home and First Port City Bank.

The Georgia Literary Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Cathy Cox kicking off the programs at 10 a.m. at the new Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center.