In 1934, he married his grammar school sweetheart Ruth Puckett. Their wedding took place in her parents' home in Hartselle, and Huie later immortalized the scene in his largely autobiographical 1942 first novel "Mud on the Stars."
In World War II, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Huie of the United States Navy, served as aide to Vice Admiral Ben Moreell of the Seabees. While writing for the Seabees chronicling their outstanding, unique wartime activity, Huie had special permission to continue his own writing projects, both fiction and nonfiction work dealing primarily with the war.
Released from the Navy in 1945, Huie went immediately to the Pacific Theater as War Correspondent. His experiences at Iwo Jima and in Hawaii show up later in nonfiction such as "The Outsider" about flag-raiser Ira Hayes, later filmed with Tony Curtis as Hayes and in the novel "The Revolt of Mamie Stover" with the movie of the same title starring Jane Russell as Hollywood's version of Mamie.
Before the war, Huie had been writing for The American Mercury, the New York magazine co-founded by H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, so after the war he returned there, becoming Associate Editor, then Editor.
In 1950, publisher Clendenin J. Ryan bought the "Mercury". Ryan and editor Huie sought to graduate the magazine into a journal of the fledgling American conservative intellectual movement, opening its pages to more mainstream writing and to new writers while keeping up its usual highbrow content. Young William F. Buckley, future National Review founder-editor, was one of Huie's early staffers.
By the mid-1950s, Huie and Ryan were unable to overcome financial difficulties, were forced to sell the magazine to one of its investors, Russell Maguire, and Buckley's own 1955 creation subsequently became exactly the kind of magazine Huie and Ryan had hoped the Mercury would be, a home for disparate strands of post-World War II American conservatism. Maguire and other owners drove the "New American Mercury", in author William A. Rusher's phrase, "toward the fever swamps of anti-Semitism," destroying its legitimacy and presaging its demise.
In 1950-55 Huie was a popular speaker traveling back and forth across the country on the professional lecture circuit. During the same period, he was also appearing on the weekly New York television current events program "Longines Chronoscope". As a co-editor of the hour-long talk show, he interviewed newsmakers John F. Kennedy, Joseph McCarthy, and Clare Booth Luce, as well as international dignitaries, southern politicians, scientists, and economists.
Domestic issues, Congressional activity, military defense, the Olympics, and foreign policy are examples of topics discussed. Extant Chronoscope programs are at the Library of Congress National Archives and Records (http://www.archives.gov) catalogued as "Television Interviews, 1951-1955".
Bill and Ruth Huie moved their permanent residence back to native Hartselle later in the 1950s. She became a much-loved first grade schoolteacher, and he continued to write full-time at home as free-lance journalist and novelist, traveling only periodically on work-related matters. They lived with their two Siamese cats in a new home of contemporary design, unusual for Hartselle, across the street from the home he had already built for his elderly parents.
These were the early days of The Civil Rights Movement, so Huie was well-positioned to be called upon by "New York Herald Tribune", "Look magazine", and other publications to cover breaking events in the South. He focused his considerable skill and experience as an investigative reporter on the murder of black Chicago teenager Emmett Till; Ku Klux Klan activity; and the killing of "Freedom Summer" workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner resulting in articles, stories, and books like "Wolf Whistle", "The Klansman", and "Three Lives for Mississippi".
Continuing this work into the 1960s produced "He Slew the Dreamer", the true story, with James Earl Ray's initial cooperation, of the Memphis assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had written the introduction for the second edition of Huie's "Three Lives for Mississippi". Although Huie first assumed Dr. King's murder was a conspiracy, extensive investigation finally showed him that Ray was the solitary assassin.
Huie's 1956 book "Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail" was written in collaboration with his old friend Zora Neale Hurston, who had covered the first Ruby McCollum Trial in Live Oak, Florida for "The Pittsburgh Courier" newspaper, which enjoyed wide distribution throughout the United States.
Mrs. McCollum, a well-to-do black woman, had shot and killed her physician and white lover, Dr. Leroy Adams, who as senator-elect, was being groomed to run for Governor of Florida. Hurston learned that the doctor and Ruby's husband were also partners in "Bolita," a numbers racket, but she encountered obstacles from both white and black citizens and saw that parts of the story were being covered up.
Furthermore, Hurston was not allowed to interview Mrs. McCollum, who was still in jail, so she called on Bill Huie, who she thought might stand a better chance to convince the judge in the trial, Hal W. Adams, to speak with him. However, not only was he not allowed to see Ruby, but there was also an incident shortly thereafter resulting in Huie's arrest on contempt of court charges, the judge citing him for "meddling" in a trial that "could embarrass the community." Huie was soon freed from jail and eventually pardoned years later. Huie's book was banned in Florida, but Ebony Magazine, Time, and others disseminated the story worldwide.
The community remained "embarrassed" so that another treatment of the case did not come out until 2003 with publication of "The Trial of Ruby McCollum," by C. Arthur Ellis, Jr., Ph.D., which contains the full transcript of the original trial. Huie's "Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail" is now available on audiotape; and in 2006 the University of Florida Press published "The Silencing of Ruby McCollum: Race, Class, and Gender in the South" by Tammy Evans, Ph.D., which explores the rhetorical relevance of silence as a form of communication in the Segregationist South.
Bill Huie's activities caused the KKK to burn a cross on his lawn in 1967, and some mainstream journalists have expressed criticism of his "checkbook journalism." After a Mississippi jury found the accused murderers of Emmett Till Not Guilty, Huie paid the killers to describe how and why they committed the murders. Since they could not be tried again, the killers complied, and the truth was revealed in Look magazine.
His book "The Execution of Private Slovik" relates the true story of World War II G.I. Eddie Slovik, the only soldier since the American Civil War to be executed for desertion, a fate kept so quiet by the government that even Slovik's widow did not know how her husband had died. After the book exposed the event and told Eddie's story, Huie and others tried for years to get the government to pay his widow a pension, but with no success, even though the most-watched television movie of all time up to 1974 was NBC's "The Execution of Private Slovik" starring Martin Sheen.
His 1959 book "Wolf Whistle and Other Stories" included a detailed account of the life of US Marine Ira Hayes of World War II Iwo Jima fame. The story was adapted into a movie, The Outsider, in 1961 with Tony Curtis as Hayes. The British edition of the book (Panther Books 1961) was retitled "The Outsider and Other Stories". The other pieces in the book were: "Little Un" (to quote the author's opening note, 'about the bastard son of the perennial Governor of Alabama, James E Folsom', "Wolf Whistle", on the Emmett Till case and "Postscript to Ruby McCollum".
Bill Huie's beloved wife of almost 40 years died of cancer in 1973, following the death of his adored father just months before. Huie and his aged mother continued to reside in houses across the street from each another and shared lunch every day until she required nursing home care. In 1975, the same year that Alabama's Library Association honored him with Best Fiction Award for "In the Hours of Night", Huie met Martha Hunt Robertson of Guntersville, Alabama, Art Instructor at a Community College. They married at a relative's home in Huntsville, Alabama on July 16, 1977. She continued teaching at the college, and he continued to write, while they divided their time between their Hartselle and Guntersville homes. In a few years, the Huies moved to Scottsboro, Alabama, living with her mother to care for her until her death. By 1985, Guntersville, Alabama was finally the one-and-only Huie residence and Bill Huie's workplace, where he composed at his typewriter most of every day and sometimes into the night.
In this setting, alone at home November 20, 1986, one week after a very happy 76th birthday, William Bradford Huie died of a sudden, unheralded heart attack. Left unfinished or unpublished are works titled "The Ray of Hope", "Battle Without Song," "To Live and Die in Dixie", "The Q Secret", "Codsack Chronicals", and "Recollections of a Loner". His widow and sole heir donated the Huie papers to Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, a noted research center. The "William Bradford Huie Collection" is available in OSU's Rare Books and Manuscripts Special Collections Library. In Memphis, Tennessee, Mrs. Huie continues to represent her late husband's literary properties and manages on-going projects.
Since 1974, the Alabama Authors Collection at Snead Community College's McCain Learning Resource Center, Boaz, Alabama, has been documenting Huie's life and career and has a variety of artifacts, as well as all of his books. In November, 2006, the City of Hartselle, Alabama renamed the local public library in honor of Huie. The William Bradford Huie Library of Hartselle has a permanent biographical display of Huie's work, as well bibliographic resources. In 2007, the Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center added a William Bradford Huie component to their permanent collection.
Since his death in 1986, dozens of publications have cited, quoted, referenced and described William Bradford Huie, his words, and his ideas. Recent examples are: David Halberstam's "The Fifties"; both volumes of "Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 1941-1963 and 1963-1973"; "The Race Beat" by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, 2006; and Devin McKinney's "An American Cuss," in Issue #57 of the "Oxford American," 2007. Huie's alma mater, the University of Alabama, has honored him posthumously with their Fine Arts Award as well as with induction into the College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame.
"The Birth of a Nation'hood": Lessons from Thomas Dixon and D.W. Griffith to William Bradford Huie and the Klansman, O.J. Simpson's First Movie (1)
Dec 22, 2002; The film Birth of a Nation, based on the novel The Klansman [sic], gathered up and solidified post-Civil War America's...