“When I was completely taken in by the Communist agitation at Gastonia in 1929, there wasn’t a bigger jackass or a more gullible sap in the State of North Carolina than I was. I knew absolutely nothing about what I was talking about, as I whooped it up continually in this column in support of the murderous Gastonia defendants. My experience in the bloody Gastonia business is THE thing of all others which has done most to make me distrust so-called ‘liberalism,’ which so often, like mine was then, is not only ignorant and neurotic, but very dangerous.”
— Nell Battle Lewis’s “Incidentally” column in the News & Observer of Raleigh, Dec. 16, 1951 (as quoted in “Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Cornelia Battle Lewis, 1893-1956” by Alexander S. Leidholdt ).
When Lewis died, N&O editor Jonathan Daniels, who had served simultaneously as her patron and her archvillain, wrote that “Nell Battle Lewis made for herself a name that will be long remembered in North Carolina.”
Through no lack of effort on her part, it hasn’t turned out that way. Leidholdt’s thoughtful and thorough biography, which details Lewis’s transitions from “most versatile” graduate at St. Mary’s School to daring advocate of the underclass to hard-line segregationist, has gone virtually unnoticed. (Hat tips to exceptions Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star-News [http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20091114/ARTICLES/911139982?Title=Book-review-Biography-looks-at-a-homegrown-N-C-reformer] and Charles Wheeler of the Greensboro News & Record [http://www.news-record.com/blog/63640/entry/76748].)