Profile 2021: Pulitzer recognized newspaper’s historic coverage

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

In a time that was void of cellphones, computers and social media of any kind, it was up to print newspapers to inform the public of life’s daily events.

On a tragic day in 1953, The Vicksburg Sunday Post Herald used all its resources — many of them creative — to weather a literal storm and publish a newspaper that would win the greatest award in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize.

On Dec. 5, 1953, a tornado ripped through downtown Vicksburg leaving death and destruction in its path. Thirty-eight people were killed, including six children.

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Before an accurate assessment of the damage and casualties could be gathered, rumors were flying.

People in Vicksburg were panicking.

When Publisher Louis P. Cashman Sr. realized the Vicksburg Sunday Post Herald — known today as The Vicksburg Post — could dispel some of the fear, he and his staff set to work.

Fact-finding reporting would need to be done, stories written, photographs taken and the newspaper printed.

But the F5 tornado had broken the city’s main water line and the gas company had shut off power to prevent any more fires. Therefore, efforts to get the newspaper out would have to be done outside the usual mechanics.

“They had to go out to gutters and get water to use to develop the film,” said Pat Cashman, the grandson of Cashman Sr., who served as publisher of The Vicksburg Post from 1985 to 2013.

Because the press was run by gas, it had to be converted to coal.

“Everything at that time was hot metal production so to convert the type lead from gas to coal, they capped off the gas pipes and went out and bought every bag of charcoal in the town from stores that were still open,” he said.

Fortunately, The Herald’s power was soon restored, since its location was close to the hospital where the injured were being taken.

At the time of the tornado, the newspaper office was on the corner of Cherry and South streets and the Mercy Hospital was on Crawford Street.

Although Pat was only a baby at the time of the tornado, he recalled these stories told to him by his grandfather and father, Louis P. Cashman Jr., as well as the historical accounts of The Herald’s heroic efforts that were later documented.

Receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Deadline Reporting and realizing the newspaper’s history, Pat said, had been a big thing for him growing up.

“That’s the highest recognition in the field like that for a daily newspaper. There were a lot of good papers out there and this was something hardly any other paper will obtain,” he said.

The Pulitzer Prize, established by Joseph Pulitzer, who has been regarded as the most skillful of newspaper publishers, is an award that was founded as an incentive to excellence for achievements in newspaper, magazine, and online journalism, literature and musical composition in the United States.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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