Raleigh Broadcaster Tangled with Former First Lady

"Weep no more, my lady"On May 15, 1950, W. E. Debnam published Weep No More, My Lady, his response to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s newspaper column earlier that year.

In her nationally-distributed “This Day” column, Mrs. Roosevelt, the liberal stalwart and defender of her husband’s legacy, wrote of her recent visit to North Carolina that she was “not so sure that there are not signs of poverty and unhappiness that will gradually have to disappear if that part of the nation is going to prosper.”

Debnam, a Raleigh native, had spent a lifetime in journalism, including several years at the Standard-Laconic, his family’s weekly in Snow Hill.  During World War II, he covered the war in the Pacific for Raleigh radio station WPTF, tagging each broadcast with “This is Debnam.”

Eleanor Roosevelt eats in Chapel Hill during her February 1950 visit to North Carolina. Image from the North Carolina CollectionAfter the war he stepped into his news commentary role. First on the radio and then in a widely-circulated 60-page softcover book, he took Mrs. Roosevelt to task. He attributed the South’s weak economy to Sherman’s destructive campaign during the Civil War and to the “tragic era” of Reconstruction. Race relations, Debnam contended, were better in the South than in northern cities.

Debnam’s book reached a ready audience, selling a half-million copies at 50 cents each.

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