A regional Emmy Award-winning historical documentary more than a decade in the making and shot in North Carolina has a local connection.
“The Editor and the Dragon: Horace Carter Fights the Klan” includes work by Richmond Hill videographer Mickey Youmans, who also partners with the film’s director and co-writer, Walter Campbell, on other projects through the Richmond Hill-based nonprofit Educational Media Foundation.
Both Youmans and Campbell are Savannah natives who grew up in the same neighborhood and attended the same high school and college, but they didn’t become friends and collaborators until the 1990s.
Youmans is credited as principal photographer and technical adviser in the film, which won the Emmy in January in Nasvhille, Tennessee. Youmans also is credited with making sure the documentary on Carter, the publisher of the Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly Tabor City Tribune, was filmed in high definition. In 2003, that apparently wasn’t easy to do.
“Using HD today is a no-brainer, of course, but in 2003 it was impossible to buy or rent a HD camera in North Carolina,” Campbell said via email.
“Indeed, the only HD cameras then in the state were all owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company in Raleigh — the first company to obtain an experimental HD license and to develop the technology to broadcast data with an HD signal,” Campbell continued. “To be sure, (Youmans) had to rent an HD camera from the Fletcher Company of Chicago to shoot the first interviews in North Carolina for (the documentary).
“Not only did (Youmans) introduce (Campbell) to emerging HD equipment and workflow, but (Youmans) also used a rented HD camera to shoot the first series of interviews and B-roll for (the documentary),” Campbell said in a written summary, explaining how the two documentary filmmakers came to work together on the project for the University of North Carolina.
To Youmans, and despite the Emmy and a national release on PBS, Carter remains very much the hero of the story about “The Editor and the Dragon: Horace Carter Fights the Klan.”
“The main story is not about me or anyone else, but Horace Carter,” Youmans said. “That man was, and is forever, a hero.”
Carter’s weekly, along with Willard Cole, editor of The News Reporter of Whiteville, North Carolina, won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for public service for their campaigns against the Ku Klux Klan.
But while Cole is mentioned, it is Carter’s courageous and, at times, lonely stand against the KKK that is the focal point of the documentary.
Carter, who died in 2009, and his wife and children were isolated and threatened with violence, and there were threats of boycotts by Klan leaders such as Thomas Hamilton, who later was imprisoned.
But Carter refused to back down. In all, he wrote more than 100 stories and editorials from 1950 to 1952 on the Klan, and the reporting of both the Tabor City Tribune and Whiteville News Reporter was cited by the Pulitzer Prize committee for “their successful campaign against the Ku Klux Klan, waged on their own doorstep at the risk of economic loss and personal danger, culminating in the conviction of over one hundred Klansmen and an end to terrorism in their communities.”
“He was a conservative Christian who fought the Klan,” Youmans said. “I spent a lot of time with him. He was a special person who could sort out what was right and what was wrong with the big picture and was brave enough to write about it.”
Both Youmans and Campbell lived off Whifield Avenue, went to Jenkins High School and attended Armstrong State College.
Youmans, who seemingly has done a little bit of everything — he’s even a licensed skipper — now lives in Richmond Hill and is working on other projects through the Educational Media Foundation, including documentaries on “everything from Jesse Helms to the American jihadist, international choral exchanges, journeys into the jungles of South America 250 miles up a river to shoot a fundraiser, etc.,” he said.
The group is launching a website at www.educationalmediafoundation.org, but it’s not running yet.
But if Youmans remained close to home, Campbell moved to North Carolina to “pursue graduate studies in history,” he said. By 1991, he had earned a Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina.
In the 1980s, Campbell took up documentary filmmaking while continuing to write and research, and has won a number of awards for his work. In 1996, Campbell formed his own production company, Memory Lane Productions. That’s when he and Youmans were introduced through Jay Self, then-director of Savannah’s city film services.
The two will continue to work together through the Educational Media Foundation “and to search for good stories to tell,” Campbell said, “especially those with a Georgia connection.”