Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

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Politics
5:05 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Saturday's Runoff Will Decide If Sen. Landrieu Still Represents Louisiana

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 1:07 pm

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Politics
4:07 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Louisiana's Edwin Edwards May Be On His Last Political Stand

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 6:47 pm

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Code Switch
11:45 am
Sat November 29, 2014

A Musical Tribute For A Waiter Who Spoke Out Against Racism

Justin Hopkins sings during a tribute show for Booker Wright, who worked in a whites-only restaurant in the Mississippi Delta.
Brandall Atkinson Courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 12:05 pm

Editor's note: This story contains racial slurs.

A new musical work pays tribute to an unlikely and little-known civil rights activist: Booker T. Wright. You won't find his name in history textbooks. But his story is a testament to the everyday experiences of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

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Around the Nation
5:20 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Plan To Use Gulf Oil Spill Funds For Beach Hotel Sparks Lawsuit

The Alabama gulf coast is heavily developed with condo and hotel properties. Now the state wants to use Gulf Coast restoration funds to build a new beach hotel and conference center.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 5:04 pm

Money is flowing now to Gulf Coast states to remedy damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. All kinds of projects are underway, from building boat ramps to shoring-up marshland.

They're being paid for with a $1 billion down payment BP made toward its ultimate responsibility to make the Gulf Coast whole, a figure estimated to be up to $18 billion.

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Politics
12:02 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Senate Control Could Ride On The South's Tight Races

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 12:35 pm

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Politics
4:33 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

La. Has Become Redder Since Sen. Mary Landrieu Took Office

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 6:23 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Politics
4:33 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Alabama's Darius Foster Wants To Bring Back 'Fight For The People' GOP

Darius Foster says he wants to challenge racial and political expectations. "With me, unfortunately, everything is black Republican. Not Darius did this, but the black Republican did that."
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 8:34 pm

Republicans are trying to make inroads with African-Americans in the Deep South, who have voted overwhelmingly Democrat since the civil rights era. In Alabama, the GOP is fielding more black candidates this cycle than ever before. One of them is Darius Foster, who gained national attention with this viral video challenging racial and political expectations:

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Politics
4:46 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

In Increasingly Red Louisiana, Democrat Landrieu Struggles To Hold On

Sen. Mary Landrieu greets candidates Rep. Bill Cassidy (left) and Rob Maness after Tuesday's debate. Most observers don't see how Landrieu can pull enough support to avoid a runoff in the state's open primary.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Wed October 15, 2014 8:13 pm

Listening to Sen. Mary Landrieu's opponents, you might think President Obama was up for re-election. Tuesday night in Shreveport, the three candidates faced off in a debate for the first time.

Democrat Landrieu is waging hard-fought battle for re-election in a race that could help decide which party has control of the U.S. Senate. Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and a Tea Party candidate, Rob Maness, are her main challengers in Louisiana's open primary on Nov. 4.

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Art & Design
4:53 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Reviving A Southern Industry, From Cotton Field To Clothing Rack

Fashion designer Natalie Chanin stands in front of in-progress garments at the Alabama Chanin Factory. Chanin and Billy Reid, internationally acclaimed designers, have teamed up to test the concept of organic, sustainable cotton farming and garment-making.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Fri October 10, 2014 3:31 pm

You've probably heard of "farm to table," but how about "field to garment"? In Alabama, acclaimed fashion houses Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid have a new line of organic cotton clothing made from their own cotton field.

It's not just an experiment in keeping production local; it's an attempt to revive the long tradition of apparel-making in the Deep South. North Alabama was once a hub for textile manufacturing, with readily available cotton and access to cheap labor. But the industry all but disappeared after NAFTA became law, as operations moved overseas.

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NPR Story
5:44 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

As Populations Shift, Democrats Hope To Paint The Sun Belt Blue

A sign directs voters at a polling site in Atlanta. "Georgia is changing dramatically," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter says. "There's no doubt that Georgia is next in line as a national battleground state."
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 7:45 pm

The Democratic National Committee is running a Spanish language ad on radio stations in North Carolina and Georgia, where there are competitive U.S. Senate races.

"Republicans think we're going to stay home," the ad says. "It's time to rise up."

Democrats see opportunity in Southern states with fast-growing minority populations and an influx of people relocating to the Sun Belt. In Georgia, there's a push to register new voters in hopes of turning a red state blue.

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Politics
7:17 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Ex-Con, Future Congressman? Former Gov. Edwin Edwards Campaigns Again

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards is launching a return to politics by running for Congress. His campaign comes 50 years after he first served as a state senator, and three years after he was released from federal prison, where he was serving time on corruption charges. Edwards — nicknamed the "Silver Fox" €”— says public life is his calling. "It's in my blood," he tells NPR.
Travis Spradling SP

There's a familiar name on the ballot in Louisiana this fall. Edwin Edwards — octogenarian, felon and former four-term governor of the state — is trying to make a political comeback. With his roguish Cajun charm, and a new 30-something wife and 1-year old son by his side, the Democrat is running for Congress in a heavily Republican district.

Can he still woo voters, or is it a foolish campaign dredging up bad memories of the ethical swamp of Louisiana politics?

Turning The Charm Up — Again

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Around the Nation
6:29 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Preserving Black History, Americans Care For National Treasures At Home

Neonta Williams (left) shares family letters dating back to 1901 with preservationist Kimberly Peach during the Smithsonian's Save our African American Treasures program at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Peach advises her to use archive-quality polyester sleeves to protect the fragile papers, rather than store them in a zip-lock bag.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 12:28 am

In a hall inside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama on Saturday, long tables are draped with black linen. Experts are bent over tables, examining aging quilts, letters filled with tight, hand-penned script, and yellowing black-and-white photos tacked into crackling albums — all family keepsakes brought in by local residents.

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Law
5:10 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Federal Judge Rules BP Primary Culprit In Gulf Oil Spill

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 10:58 am

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Law
4:36 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Federal Judge Decides BP Acted With Gross Negligence In Gulf Oil Spill

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 6:51 pm

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Law
4:19 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Federal Court Deals A Victory For Opponents Of Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 7:04 pm

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Politics
4:06 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Freedom Strategy Put To The Test At Democratic National Convention

Fannie Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic national convention in Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 22, 1964.
AP

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 7:53 pm

Fifty years ago this week, Freedom Summer spilled into national party politics. Young volunteers spent the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, working to register African-American voters. But leaders of the movement also had a political strategy designed to chip away at the oppressive white power structure in the South, and it was put to the test at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J.

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Around the Nation
3:33 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Gay-Rights Movement Tackles Cultural Battle In The Deep South

Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, launched a grass-roots effort to make the Deep South's culture more accepting of gays and lesbians. Brad Clark discusses the group's work in Mississippi.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 4:04 pm

Mercedes Ricks may be the perfect candidate to help launch a new cultural push in Magnolia, Miss. The 50-year-old native of Colombia ended up in this tiny south Mississippi town by way of New Orleans nine years ago.

"I met these ladies from here," Ricks says after greeting guests in the barroom next to her Mariposa restaurant. "They invited me to come spend a weekend in Magnolia. We were going to go to the river and drink beer, and Katrina happened that weekend."

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Law
5:14 am
Thu August 14, 2014

In Virginia, Gay Marriages May Begin Next Week

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 7:50 am

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A federal appeals court has now cleared the way for same-sex marriage in the state of Virginia. And unless the Supreme Court intervenes, marriage licenses could be issued to gay couples there as soon as next week. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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Law
4:53 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down Alabama Abortion Law

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 7:09 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Crime In The City
6:36 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Writer Plumbs 'Nature Of Evil' In Hometown's Violent Civil Rights Past

Black demonstrators run down a Natchez, Miss., street in 1967 after a report that several white youths with a gun were near. The town's civil rights past informs author Greg Iles' crime fiction.
AP

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 11:33 am

Mississippi's past looms large in Greg Iles' best-selling thrillers. His latest book, Natchez Burning, is the first in a trilogy that takes readers back 50 years to chilling civil rights-era murders and conspiracies all set in Iles' hometown — the antebellum river city of Natchez, Miss.

Iles' hero, Penn Cage, is a former prosecutor and widowed single father who has returned to his childhood home. Once there, he finds himself confronting killers, corruption and dark secrets.

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