Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Nonfiction writing award honors author Sikora

The Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing, named for the founder of the University of Alabama department of journalism, will be awarded to Frank Sikora on Friday.

Wilson Lowrey, chair of the journalism department, was on the committee that chose Sikora. As the new chair of the journalism department, this was his first experience on the committee. Lowrey maintains the importance of the legacy of Cason, whose leadership brought about the creation of the University’s journalism department, where many of Cason’s notions of what makes a good journalism school are still honored.

(See also, “Department of journalism adds new curriculum track for sports writers“)

“There’s a human side, and there’s a reason side to this department,” Lowrey said. “Cason envisioned that.”

Cason was a highly influential writer in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, but his internal struggles eventually led to his death by suicide, shortly before the publication of his then-controversial book, “90 Degrees in the Shade.”

“Like many people then, he straddled the fence between his conscience and his society,” journalism professor Chris Roberts said.

The criteria of the award include a Southern focus and impact in the world of journalism and literature. Award recipients must also have a strong connection to the state of Alabama.

Journalism professor Rick Bragg received the award in 2004, and other distinguished writers have won in previous years, including Homer Hickam and Howell Raines.

(See also, “Frye Gaillard to be awarded Clarence Cason Award“)

“Alabama’s had a great tradition of nonfiction writers who write about the human condition,” Bragg said.

Frank Sikora will be a guest of the University to receive the award Friday. Sikora has gained respect among the Southern literary and journalistic community for his work on the Civil Rights Movement, such as his book, “Selma, Lord, Selma,” which has been produced as a TV movie.

Sikora got his start in newspaper journalism at The Gadsden Times and then moved to The Birmingham News, where he worked for many years alongside current faculty at the department of journalism, often serving as a mentor for Bragg.

(See also, “Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg to speak at fundraising event“)

“He was a good, great writer. I think his stories always had heart,” Bragg said. “The best mentors are the ones who you look at their work and you say, ‘You know, I’d like to do that.’ His work showed how to write with the flavor of the place I lived.”

Sikora, who is currently retired, said he was surprised and pleased at learning he won the award.

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