Despite what it said in the New York Times or the Congressional Record, not everybody in America got the word right away about the civil rights movement. Thus it was that well into the 1970s, McIntosh County in backwoods Georgia remained a place where the black majority still had never elected one of their own to any county office, where black kids were bused away from the white school, and where the white county sheriff had his hand in every racket there was. Praying for Sheetrock is the saga of how, thanks to the leadership of a black shop-steward-turned-county-commissioner named Thurnell Alston, together with the aid of a cadre of idealistic Legal Services lawyers (Melissa Greene was one of their paralegals) this situation began to change. The story, written as grippingly as a novel, is charged with twists that only nonfiction can deliver; for example, Alston, for all the brave good he did, ultimately got caught in a federal sting and went to jail while the corrupt sheriff walked. This is, writes Greene, a story of "large and important things happening in a very little place."
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From Publishers Weekly
As the first black commissioner of McIntosh County, Ga., retired boilermaker Thurnell Alston brought the civil rights struggle to a coastal backwater in the 1970s. He initiated voting rights lawsuits, fought drugs and introduced medical clinics, plumbing and running water to "a forgotten county needy in every way." A threat to corrupt Sheriff Tom Popell, who ruled the county as his fiefdom, Alston challeged the "good old boy" patronage system. But the irascible commissioner became increasingly distanced from his constituency and, after his youngest son's tragic death in 1983, he neglected his wife and children in escapist pursuits. The target of a government sting operation, he was convicted of drug conspiracy charges in 1988 and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison camp, where he remains. By turns inspiring and sad, his story is told with dramatic skill by Atlanta journalist Greene. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour.
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