Marshall Frady, a civil rights reporter and award-winning television journalist who wrote a controversial biography of George Wallace, died Tuesday. He was 64.
Frady, who had been diagnosed with cancer, died at his home in Greenville, S.C., according to his wife, Barbara Gandolfo-Frady.
A native of Augusta, Ga., Frady wrote for Newsweek, the Saturday Evening Post and Life Magazine during the 1960s and 1970s, frequently interviewing the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a close friend, will preside over a memorial service Friday at the Rowland Funeral Home in North Augusta, S.C.
“He had a keen and distinctive mind and had a tremendous capacity to paint a picture with words,” Jackson told The Associated Press.
“We were both from the South and had this experience growing up in a segregated culture. So we both made inquiries into each other’s side of town, and we came to know each other quite well.”
Won Emmy award in 1982
Frady was chief correspondent for ABC News "Close Up" from 1979 to 1986, winning an Emmy in 1982 for “Soldiers of the Twilight,” a documentary about mercenaries. He was a commentator for “Nightline” and wrote for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and Esquire.
Frady’s books included “Southerners: A Journalist’s Odyssey,” and biographies of King, Jackson and the Rev. Billy Graham. Some of his journalism was included in a Library of America compilation of civil rights reporting.
His best known book was “Wallace,” published in 1968, when the former Alabama governor was a third-party candidate for president. Frady had met Wallace two years earlier and originally planned a novel about a Southern politician. But after spending months around Wallace and his supporters, he decided to write nonfiction.
Controversial Wallace book
The book’s discussion of Wallace’s segregationist past, including extensive direct quotations, led the former governor to threaten legal action. The book’s cover was also controversial: a drawing of Wallace with a chin cleft that resembled a swastika.
When “Wallace” was adapted in 1997 into a TNT television miniseries starring Gary Sinise, the crew was refused permission to use Alabama for some location work. Wallace’s family and friends criticized the script, co-written by Frady, especially scenes where a black aide ponders killing Wallace and where Wallace tries to kill himself.
Before falling ill, Frady was writing a biography of Fidel Castro, according to Ruth Fecych, his editor at Simon & Schuster. He had also been scheduled to teach this spring at Furman University, his alma mater.
Besides his wife, he is survived by three children from previous marriages — Katrina, Carson and Shannon. He was married four times.
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