Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Sid Salter: Ray Mosby: God will enjoy listening to and arguing with authentic Delta journalist

  Harold Ray Mosby Jr.’s legendary editorial voice was at once powerful, poignant, prophetic and provocative. To the end of his days, which came last week in a Jackson hospital at the age 70, that reliable and important voice never failed him.

Barely six feet tall and 130 pounds with rocks in his pocket, Ray was not a physically imposing fellow. But when his editorial voice roared and he spoke what he believed to be truth to power, it had the impact of a heavyweight boxer throwing body blows. He asked no quarter, and he gave none.

You didn’t like what Ray wrote? Tough. You either threatened or actually cancelled your subscription or pulled your advertising account? Pop your whip. Ray wasn’t really wired up to back down from a scrap if his research and his gut told him he was right.

His career in Mississippi journalism began as many do in the orbit of a mentor. Ray was an acolyte of crusading Clarksdale Press-Register publisher and editor Joe Ellis. Over the course of his own career, Ellis twice won the J. Oliver Emmerich Editorial Excellence Award as the state’s top editorial writer at a daily newspaper.

His protegee Mosby would win the Emmerich Award three times in one of the smallest and most isolated Mississippi communities attempting to sustain a weekly newspaper – Rolling Fork, Mississippi at the venerable Deer Creek Pilot. That’s an almost impossible feat.

Strangely enough, Mosby wasn’t the first award-winning editorial writer to operate The Pilot. Hal DeCell before him had taken on the Citizen’s Council and firebrand Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett during his long tenure leading the newspaper.

Despite Mosby’s reputation as a hard-nosed curmudgeon and a writer who could strip the bark off a foe, he was a prince of a guy who leaned into helping the little guy, the marginalized or the ignored. He cared deeply and he wanted to help people. More often than not, he did.

What is less known about Ray Mosby are the trials and tribulations of his life. Strapping on the purchase of a country newspaper at midlife is daunting enough. “The bank and I bought the newspaper,” he’d say with a wry grin. Circulation was small, usually less than 1,500. Advertising in the Mississippi Delta was hard to come by.

But the real load Ray carried was much heavier. Over the last decade of Ray’s life his father Harold Ray Mosby Sr. passed away. Later that same year, his mother Stanley Eleanor Williamson Mosby died after a long and debilitating illness. Mrs. Mosby was an old school English teacher and her influence on Ray's writing talents are undeniable.

Then, Ray's wife Phyllis Trelling Mosby - the love of his life and a talented lady who had worked alongside him at the Pilot and earlier at the Clarksdale Press-Register - passed away after a long struggle with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

Ray could have taught Job a thing or two about bearing up to troubles. Yet he never let those burdens cheat his readers out of a first-class community newspaper. Like a lot of editors of his era, Ray smoked too much and worked too hard and didn’t take particularly good care of himself while caring for others. Visitors to his office usually got beer and pretzels or coffee.

Writing about what country editors do and why it matters, Mosby said: “The community newspaper is not some monolithic entity; its editor is not some ivory towered “big shot.” He or she is also a neighbor. He or she is one who goes to church with you or stops to chat in the grocery store or is always there to volunteer at community functions or stops to shake hands or just waves in passing.

“More importantly, he or she is the one everybody else trusts to promote those things that are beneficial, and to try to stop that which is not. There’s a fishbowl effect in small towns, and its newspaper is hence, often its lightening rod. It may be praised one week and dog-cussed the next, but it is not only impossible, but really not important that it be liked. It’s important that it be respected, and it is even more important that it be trusted,” Mosby said.

Ray Mosby was the best editorial writer in Mississippi, and he was widely respected and trusted. Rest in the peace you’ve earned.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Ray Mosby was a hell of a newspaperman. His death diminishes the South Delta and Mississippi as a whole.

WN said...

Ray was a true newsman; not these under educated blow hards we see in media today.
He and I had strong disagreements on some issues but I learned that Ray was a man of true integrity. I also respected his abilty to use the English language to paint vivid picture in all his editorals.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS