Curtis Wilkie
Overby Fellow and
Kelly G. Cook Chair of Journalism

Phone: (662) 915-1707

Curtis Wilkie Profile

Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Wilkie was educated in public schools of Mississippi and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He served as reporter and editor on the staff of the Clarksdale Press Register 1963-69 in the Mississippi Delta at a time when the civil rights movement was at its height. He received a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association and worked on Capitol Hill 1969-71 as a legislative aide in the offices of Sen. Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Brademas (D-Ind,). He served as reporter and editor on the staff of the News-Journal papers in Wilmington, Delaware, 1971-74.

Wilkie joined the staff of the Boston Globe in 1975 and served as a national and foreign correspondent for that paper until retirement at the end of the 2000 presidential campaign. He covered eight presidential campaigns (seven for the Globe) and served as White House correspondent 1977-82. He also served as chief of the Globe's Washington bureau.

In 1984, Wilkie established the Globe’s Middle East bureau and lived in Jerusalem 1984-87. He covered numerous wars and conflicts overseas including 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; terrorist bombings of US Marines in Beirut as well as siege of Yasser Arafat in Tripoli, Lebanon, in 1983; civil war in Lebanon throughout the 1980s; first Palestinian intifada, 1988-89; Romanian revolution 1989-90; first Gulf War 1991; civil war in Somalia, 1993. In 1993, Wilkie established Globe’s Southern bureau in New Orleans and covered regional and national affairs from there until retirement.

Wilkie has written numerous articles for national magazines such as The Nation, The New Republic, Newsweek, Playboy, George, Washington Journalism Review. Many articles published in the Boston Globe Magazine. He is the co-author, with the late Jim McDougal, of “Arkansas Mischief: Birth of a National Scandal” published by Henry Holt 1998; author of “ Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped the Modern South” published by Scribner 2001; co-author, with six others, of “City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina” published by LSU Press 2007.

He was a journalism professor in residence at Louisiana State University (2003). He was appointed to Kelly G. Cook chair in the department of journalism at the University of Mississippi (2004). Wilkie was given the Special Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction Writing by the Fellowship of Southern Writers (2005).

Wilkie has served as visiting professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi since 2002. He was appointed to become the first Overby Fellow with the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi in 2007.

Wilkie and his wife, Nancy reside in Oxford, Miss., and New Orleans, La. He has three grown children, Carter, Leighton & Stuart.


“Over the past four decades no reporter has critiqued the American South with such evocative sensitivity and bedrock honesty as Curtis Wilkie.”
— Douglas Brinkley

The Fall of the House of Zeus tells the story of Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most successful plaintiff's lawyer in America. A brother-in-law of Trent Lott, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Scruggs made a fortune taking on mass tort lawsuits against “Big Tobacco” and the asbestos industries. He was hailed by Newsweek as a latter day Robin Hood, and portrayed in the movie, The Insider, as a dapper aviator-lawyer. Scruggs’ legal triumphs rewarded him lavishly, and his success emboldened both his career maneuvering and his influence in Southern politics—but at a terrible cost, culminating in his spectacular fall, when he was convicted for conspiring to bribe a Mississippi state judge. 

Here Mississippi is emblematic of the modern South, with its influx of new money and its rising professional class, including lawyers such as Scruggs, whose interests became inextricably entwined with state and national politics.
Based on extensive interviews, transcripts, and FBI recordings never made public, The Fall of the House of Zeus exposes the dark side of Southern and Washington legal games and power politics: the swirl of fixed cases, blocked investigations, judicial tampering, and a zealous prosecution that would eventually ensnare not only Scruggs but his own son, Zach, in the midst of their struggle with insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina damages. In gripping detail, Curtis Wilkie crafts an authentic legal thriller propelled by a “welter of betrayals and personal hatreds,” providing large supporting parts for Trent Lott and Jim Biden, brother of then-Senator Joe, and cameos by John McCain, Al Gore, and other DC insiders and influence peddlers. Above all, we get to see how and why the mighty fail and fall, a story as gripping and timeless as a Greek tragedy.

- Random House, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 - University of Mississippi - All Rights Reserved.