Albany, GA – Margaret Lever Morningstar, an old style Old South journalist, died at her family’s home in Albany. She was 96.
Mrs. Morninstar was born in Albany on February 21, 1924 to Virginia and Lloyd Levers. Mr. Levers was a wealthy cotton grower, owning several thousand acres of farmland through southwestern Georgia.
Miss Levers studied journalism at Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia and graduated from there in 1944. Mr. Levers was the cousin of Clark Howell, the publisher of the Atlantic Constitution, and through him, Miss Lever was hired in the newspaper’s Arts & Culture department. In 1946, Miss Levers met Yardell Morningstar a young Army captain returning to Atlanta from serving in the south Pacific during the war. Mr. Morningstar family owned textile mills in eastern Alabama. The two married a year later.
Mrs. Morningstar soon became one of the Atlantic Constitution’s three Racial Deportment & Manners Columnists. These were journalists, typically female, who provided advice on the proper decorum and etiquette for whites dealing with black people. They wrote columns, answered letters and were often consulted when local events were staged. Mrs. Morningstar published two compilations of her columns in 1948 and 1951, quickly becoming one of the most well known ‘Professional Racist’ advisors of the south.
In response to widespread criticism from political and black leaders, most newspapers disbanded their racial advice departments in the late 1950s; the Atlantic Constitution closed theirs in 1957. Mrs. Morningstar left the newspaper in 1961 and returned with Yardell to Anniston, AL where Mr. Morningstar’s largest textile mill was located.
In 1965, Mrs. Morningstar returned to Georgia to serve as a special assistant on racial issues to Senator Richard Russell. Senator Russell, a stark segregationist, employed Mrs. Morningstar to soften and humanize his sometimes savage racial positions. Mrs. Morningstar also became a frequent companion of Senator Russell, a lifelong bachelor, at Washington social events.
When Senator Russell died in 1971, Mrs. Morningstar worked with the Russell estate to collect and organize his papers. In 1974, she moved to Athens Georgia for three years helping the University of Georgia establish the Richard B. Russell Library.
In 1979, Mrs. Morningstar returned to Anniston where she lived until 2004 when Yardell died. She returned to her parents estate in Albany and lived there until the time of her death.