Books by Jack Bass

Released: Dec. 14, 1998

The life (so far) of a master politician who daily sets new records as the US Senate's oldest and longest-serving member, now 96. Bass, an award-winning veteran South Carolina—based political writer, and Thompson, an investigations editor at the Washington Post, portray the controversial Thurmond as an unusual man of great political and physical courage (never a fence-sitter). Though long past draft age, he signed up the day after Pearl Harbor, joining the 82nd Airborne and taking part in the D-Day invasion of Utah Beach; he was wounded and highly decorated after linking up with the bloodied 4th Division. The authors then follow Thurmond's long political career, from his governorship of South Carolina and his subsequent election to the Senate through his opposition to the Democrats" civil rights program and his ultimate abandonment of the Democrats for the Republican Party, through his later efforts to move with the times, obtaining every sort of federal assistance for his state. Bass and Thompson describe his reaching out to improve the lot of blacks and traditional black colleges. The book covers the nonagenarian's personal life, as well, including his two marriages to women decades younger than himself. In sum, Thurmond emerges from this portrait as that rarity, a politician beloved by his constituents. (15 photos and illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1993

Bass (Journalism/Univ. of Mississippi; Unlikely Heroes, 1981, etc.), using extensive quotes from taped interviews with his subject and others, tells the story of an outstanding and heroic federal judge: Frank M. Johnson of Alabama, who, despite the constant threat of violence in the explosive 1960's South, contributed to the achievement of racial justice in numerous landmark civil-rights cases. Johnson was a typically ornery product of the ``free state of Winston,'' as northern Alabama's Winston County was known (out of Unionist and antislavery sentiment, Winston attempted to secede from Alabama in 1862). Aside from his fiercely independent personality, there was little in Johnson's upbringing to suggest that he would become a champion of civil rights: He received a conventional legal education at the Univ. of Alabama—where he befriended his future adversary George Wallace and graduated first in his class—and, after WW II combat service in Europe (where he was wounded), he returned to an ordinary legal practice in Alabama. But Johnson apparently had an innate sense of justice that, after his appointment to the federal bench in 1955, led to frequent confrontations with Alabama's reactionary political culture. Bass describes how Johnson's attempts to enforce Brown v. Board of Education resulted in dramatic and vituperative showdowns with Wallace and finally ended segregation in the Alabama schools, and how Johnson's decisions allowed the historic Selma march to go forward, and punished violence directed against African-Americans. Together with judges of the Fifth Circuit, who affirmed Johnson's progressive decisions, Johnson had a pervasive effect on the eradication of racial discrimination in the South. A vivid, first-rate biography of a judicial hero. (Thirty-two b&w photographs.) Read full book review >