Letters from an Elusive Playwright

Paige Parvin’s account of lawyer Jay Ewart’s efforts in defense of Troy Davis (“In Defense of Doubt,” winter 2012) was excellent. I was not one of those who followed the case closely and this gave some insight. There is, however, a major issue which he should have fleshed out a bit. Why did the many witnesses who identified Davis as the shooter at trial recant? Did they say they did not see what they testified to? Did they not tell the truth at the trial? If there is a good reason, perhaps Davis’s appeals would have ended differently. Ewart says he wakes up at night with ideas for new strategies. If these entail some novel legal “angle” and not compelling evidence of Davis’s innocence, he should just go back to sleep.

[emdash]Jack Wissner 69OX 71C, Atlanta

I was bewildered and offended by the recent cover article about Mr. Troy Davis’ case you authored. I was present for the Emory Alumni Association event with Mr. Ewart on January 18, and I can tell you that I was stunned by Mr. Ewart’s casual portrayal of the skills necessary to represent a person either facing a death penalty trial or post-conviction proceedings. That said, I get that one of Emory Magazine’s primary interests is in glorifying Emory alumni, so I am willing to tolerate, or, at least ignore, the bit about Mr. Ewart. What I am not willing to tolerate is the magazine’s use of an article about Mr. Davis to shamelessly promote a 2002 “study” conducted by two Emory economics professors, Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Paul Rubin, and law professor Joanna Shepherd, that concluded that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. Had you actually studied the issue, you would know that their research methods and conclusions have been widely dismissed and you would have discussed and explained this in your article. Overwhelming evidence suggests Mr. Davis was innocent. Honoring his memory by telling his story and questioning a legal system—to say nothing of a value system—that would allow such a thing should have been your journalistic instinct.

[emdash]Emily Gilbert 98C, Trial attorney, Georgia capital defender, Atlanta

It is disturbing that the movement against capital punishment has chosen Troy Davis to represent their cause. As a native of Savannah that remembers the case, I challenge you to publish the unbiased truth. Your portrayal of Troy’s life is cheap propaganda at best. Savannahians have been stunned by the lack of truth [related to the evidence and facts of the case] in the media. What is even more offensive about this piece is the inflammatory language to make this a case of race. Everyone in Atlanta needs to ask themselves why there were “thousands” protesting here, while few people demonstrated in Savannah. The answer is that the locals know the truth and are grateful that they were protected from the violence of “Rah” [short for nickname “Rough as Hell”] all these years. Feel free to continue fighting the death penalty, but please do more research, get your facts straight, and pick a more appropriate mascot.

[emdash]Laura Wiley 95G, Atlanta

“What hangs in the balance,” said Glendon, former US ambassador to the Vatican, “is nothing less than whether religion will be a destabilizing force in our increasingly diverse society, or whether religion could help to hold together the two halves of the divided soul of American democracy.” (“Running on Faith,” winter 2012.) I wonder if religion can help our country accept that there are more than two halves comprising the soul of America? More diversity in religious and political thought will hopefully promote greater appreciation of all the beautiful “pieces of the pie” that makes our democracy great. I really enjoyed this article. Very enlightening.

[emdash]Jim Scott 87MR 88MR, Atlanta

As the art of true reporting seems to be increasingly scarce in newspapers these days, it was nice to see the piece on Frank Main’s work (“Main Streets,” winter 2012). I was, however, perplexed by the tagline for its author, John D. Thomas 86C 97G, which stated that he is at work on a book about “the cultural history of saliva.” I am wondering if the note should have referenced salvia instead, as the context could be more readily envisioned. Was this a typo, or am I indeed all wet? And if the latter is the case, then I offer the following title—Spit Takes: A Brief Cultural History.

[emdash]Sally Tyler 82OX 84CWashington, D.C.

Writer’s response: “Saliva” was actually not a typo, and the full title is Spit: The Cultural History of Saliva from Jesus Christ to Iggy Pop.

I was pleased to see the piece on the growing number of Emory alumni in the [journalism] field (“Big Wheel Keep on Turning,” web only, winter 2012). When I was there in the early to mid–1990s, I actually had to get permission from the dean to transfer to UGA for a quarter to take journalism classes. (This was shortly before changes in the curriculum.) Nice, informative article.

[emdash]Rebecca Adams 95C,Silver Spring, Maryland

Your “Altizer Is Not Dead” (Prelude, winter 2012) column brought back a flood of good memories. I was still at Miami High when I read the Time cover story on the controversial Emory theologian, and I know that the article played a major role in my applying and eventually coming to Emory—where I majored in philosophy and where indeed I found the best possible atmosphere for questioning, learning, and growing. I was and always will be so grateful to Emory for giving this Cuban refugee that chance. That Emory is still very much a home of intellectual conversation, of profound humanism, of the best in all of us, is a cause for joyous celebration.

[emdash]Octavio Roca 71C,Miami

Correction: In the article “Main Streets,” winter 2012, on page 33, we reported that Emory’s journalism program was revitalized in 1996 by a $1.35 gift from Atlanta’s Cox Foundation. The actual amount was $1.35 million. Many thanks to those readers who brought this to our attention.

Additional letters: online only

In the fall of 1940 I was a freshman at Oxford. All of the students belonged to one of three groups. Each group had a football team. Each team played the other team once or twice during the football season. My team consisted of fourteen students; we all dressed out in well-worn hand-me-down football uniforms. We looked somewhat like football players. Our team played valiantly but we never won a game. Seeing the photograph of Tom Edmonson kicking the ball reminded me of when our team practiced punt returns. Despite being badly nearsighted, I was assigned to be the punt return victim. So when the punt was in the air, the tacklers came rushing down to get me. Problem. I could not see the ball until it was almost upon me. I stood still, not fearing the oncoming tacklers, until the ball finally appeared somewhere in the sky. I would then confound the tacklers by dashing over to where the ball was coming down. Tacklers foiled. I would very much like to see any records showing where and when Oxford played other college teams; I think we did not play against any college teams.

[emdash]Richard Johnston 42OX 44B 68G, Atlanta

In reviewing the 175th anniversary issue, article No. 158, “Athletics for All,” caught my attention and awakened memories. During the war I attended Emory as a student in the US Navy V-5/V-12 naval officer training program. On a mid–1945 evening, under the lights, a pick-up team from our naval unit played an informal football game against the Georgia Military Academy. On our team, in addition to me, we had John Chill, Jim McCloud, Bob Cleere, Jim Smith, Shelly Schoen, J. McCutcheon, and others whose names escape me after sixty-five-odd years. Also, I don’t recall the outcome of the game because I broke my left leg, which was subsequently and very successfully treated by the competent Emory Hospital medical staff. Although informal, our game seems to have predated the Emory intercollegiate sports program, which, as indicated in the Emory Magazine article, began later in 1945. Should our event be entered in the record book as a “famous first,” or should we chalk it up as another great memory of Emory?

[emdash]Bruce T. Hurley 47C, East Northport, New York

I saw the letter from Walton Peabody 60C 63T in the winter 2012 issue, and I decided to add this update on the Emory Drinking Song. I was in the Glee Club and class of 70C. Here’s the version we were doing at the time, when Bill Lemonds was our director:

(tune of Jingle Bells)

We haven’t got a football team that’ll break through Georgia’s line,
We can’t expect to trample Tech, and that suits us just fine.
But when it comes to slinging bull, you bet we’ll hold our ground.
If bull were only water, this would be a seaport town.
Emory, Emory, thy future we foretell.
We were raised on Coca-Cola, so no wonder we raise H-E-L-L.
Emory, Emory, we’ll never break your rule.
So fill your cup, and drink ’em up, to the Coca-Cola School.

[emdash]Cary Patrick 70C, Atlanta

The article “In Defense of Doubt” was compelling, and showed how influential Emory alumni have been on both sides of the death penalty issue. Kudos to the writer and to all the staff at Emory Magazine.

[emdash]Theresa Alviar-Martin 08G, Atlanta

I am a cardiovascular registered nurse who reads Emory Healthcare news on a regular basis to stay abreast of the latest in health care. This morning, out of the corner of my eye, I see Troy Davis’s name. Why would you dredge up such a volatile issue just as things are getting back to normal for the MacPhail family as well as Troy Davis’s family? When I have more time I will tell you more about this thug. There was no doubt he was guilty. Jay Ewart only met “Rah” after he had cleaned up his act. Your readers deserve better than this.

[emdash]Ginger Kieffer

I am writing in regard to the article “In Defense of Doubt” that appeared in the winter edition of Emory Magazine. I was deeply disturbed by your obvious bias, not only in the material presented but the words you chose to express your opinions. First, you referred to police officer MacPhail as simply “white” while “Rah” was always referred to as an African American. To bring a sense of balance to your article, you should have at least used the term “Caucasian” or capitalized the word “white.” Even better, why not refer to the fallen officer as “Caucasian of European descent?” Second, where was the picture of the slain officer in your article? How has his widow coped with her loss? How are the officer’s two orphaned children? You discussed “Rah’s” extended family, why not the officer’s? Finally, you stated, “But an African American man was accused of killing a white cop . . . ” What disrespect! The dictionary classifies the word “cop” as “informal.” On the one hand, one man is identified by his historical heritage, while the other is now only identified as a “white cop.” Shame on you. In fairness to this slain officer, I hope you will travel to Savannah and visit with the “white cop’s” widow and orphans. Tell us of their struggle in life. Tell us how fair life has been to them as their officer-husband and officer-dad lay in his grave, and who was put there trying to protect people like you and me who wanted it “our way” at Burger King that night. In closing, let me ask you to do me a favor. If you are assaulted, robbed, and carjacked in the future and a “white cop” shows up to help you, please decline his help. Don’t be hypocritical. Politely refuse his help and call Jay Ewart.

[emdash]Barry Brown 85T, Travelers Rest, South Carolina

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