American Grotesk Journalist and Author
Literary, Digital & Cultural Archaeology
Periodic Instructor, OLLI at UVa
"Find what no one knows is missing.
Lend a voice to those who have none.
Embrace a cause some will hate you for then change their minds.
Encourage hope, love and understanding in the worst imaginable places for those society condemns."
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Looking for some really offbeat stories? Visit my page at Medium.com here.
Want a couple of samples? Take a deep breath and click ...
Human remains discovered at the former Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond -- in what is the largest mass burial ever discovered in Virginia -- may include national folk hero, John Henry. As researchers work to identify descendants and find out who these remains may be, the broken bodies tell their own stories.
Click the illustration to read this story in the June 25, 2019 issue of Style Weekly magazine .
Declassified documents show that in 1961, the United States Air Force accidentally dropped two armed nuclear bombs near the outskirts of Goldsboro, North Carolina, and came breathtakingly close to melting North Carolina’s east coast.
Click the illustration to read this story.
While the National Weather Service reports Richmond Virginia has more annual “fog days” than Afton Mountain 90 miles to the west, the dense fog between mile markers 99 and 104 on I-64 tends to blow in quickly and remain unusually uniform for long periods of time due to the unique geography of this part of the Blue Ridge.
Motorists in these first few interstate years often slowed to a crawl in visibility sometimes reduced to as far as their hood ornaments, and like their forefathers on Route 250 were even forced to sometimes navigate by opening the driver side door and following the centerline.
Click the illustration to read my Aug. 25, 2018 Staunton News Leader story on Afton's deadly fog. Subscribe to read all my stories there.
In 1992, my father toured Richmond, Virginia’s old Spring Street Penitentiary just before it was torn down. In the basement’s death row he found a hand-written log of a condemned prisoner’s final six hours dated Saturday, October 16, 1971. On that day I was twelve years old ...
This creative non-fiction piece was nominated in 2015 by the Rappahannock Review at Mary Washington University for a Pushcart Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in America.
It did not win, however.
Click the illustration to read it.
Most of our relatives came in legally because America had no laws prohibiting immigration
Many American supporters of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy at the southern border claim or assume that their own families immigrated to the United States legally, and they accordingly expect 21st-century immigrants to follow in an identical manner. But what these supporters fail to understand is that their 18th and 19th century immigrant ancestors broke no laws because there were literally no laws to break.
My Op-ed in the 7 July, 2018 Staunton News Leader
One day, high school students got fed up and walked out of school to protest broken conditions of their education, triggering a massive social movement possibly unprecedented in modern times.
But in this case it wasn’t the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who in March 2018 walked out to protest mass gun violence – it was young black students at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. On April 23, 1951.
Click the photo for my editorial in the March 30, 2018 issue of the Staunton News Leader.
The pedestal of the Robert E. Lee monument might hold an amazing secret — a legendary and irreplaceable artifact related to President Abraham Lincoln worth upwards of a quarter-million dollars. Or it could be a fake.
Click the photo for my story in the December, 2017 issue of Richmond Magazine
A year before Virginia’s State Penitentiary in Richmond, known as “the wall” closed December 14, 1990, all the convicts transferred to other facilities across the state. One group of transplanted old-timers bragged to a now-retired Department of Corrections consultant that a handful of their brethren were sent inside the creaky old Richmond fortress between 1940 and 1990 then vanished. Admitted, but never released, transferred, executed, pardoned or paroled. They disappeared as effortlessly as discharge dates slip off an official prison ledger.
My interview, and link to my creative nonfiction short story, based on my Virginia State Penitentiary research, appearing in the Rappahannock Review, the literary journal of Mary Washington University
Click the RR logo for the story
In 1967, Virginia couple Richard and Mildred Loving prevailed in their fight to overturn the ban on interracial marriages in their state, and the 2016 movie "Loving" chronicles their harrowing experiences.
Eighty-seven years earlier, another courageous couple also went to court to try to change Virginia law prohibiting marriages between blacks and whites, but with far less success.
My feature story in USA Today
Click the photo for the story
When Ruth Tinsley resisted a police officer’s order in 1960, a young journalist captured a moment in Richmond civil rights history
Story by Dale Brumfield
Photos by Malcolm Carpenter
Click the photo for the feature story in the January, 2017 issue of Richmond Magazine.
Jerry Givens has carried out the deaths of 62 men, yet walks around a free man.
From 1984 until 1999, this soft-spoken man, living in eastern Henrico County, was Virginia’s official executioner. He performed his duty in anonymity, never telling his friends, family or even his wife, in compliance with the state’s original execution law and an oath of secrecy he and eight of his fellow corrections officers took in 1982 as its first “death team.”
Click the photo for the whole story in the April, 2016 issue of Richmond Magazine.
Considering today’s increased racial awareness, Virginia should demonstrate its positive commitment to social justice by honoring an unjustly overlooked black civil rights leader, Nathaniel Lee Hawthorne.
For almost two decades of his adult life, “Hawsie” fearlessly fought a dangerous and lonely battle for social change in Southside Virginia, in an era when few dared challenge the controlling white power structure ...
Click the headline or the photo for the whole guest op-ed in the July 18, 2015 Richmond Times-Dispatch.