Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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A Sense of Where We Are: Going UP

| Mon Aug. 16, 2010 10:10 PM EDT


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Rhinelander, Wisconsin—Well that was fast. In the planning stages of the trip, we set aside four weeks to see the South, and just one week to go pretty much the length of the Mississippi River. And now here we are in Wisconsin, after more or less teleporting around the Midwest (somehow we've still managed to cross the river 17 times). Anyways, stay tuned for a full report on the tomb of America's last great statesman (hint: It's not in Springfield), something called "Chicken Lips," and whether or not Mark Twain would be proud of his hometown if he saw it today.

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The View From My Windshield: Mother Dearest

| Mon Aug. 16, 2010 7:01 PM EDT

Mount Olive, Illinois—Before there was Mother Jones, there was Mother Jones, a smart, fearless, rabble-rousing labor leader who dressed up like a nice old lady so that if she got beaten up, it'd make for a more sensational scene. (Actually, she kind of looked like Mrs. Doubtfire.)

Naturally, when MoJo thinking about where to spend her last days, she turned to Mount Olive, where seven martyred strikers from an 1898 shootout with mine guards in nearby Virden, are buried in a UMW cemtery. As Mother put it, "I hope it will be my consolation when I pass away to feel I sleep under the clay with those brave boys." And her cat, too.

Bonus photos below the jump.

The Exodus From Little Egypt

| Fri Aug. 13, 2010 3:15 PM EDT

Cairo, Illinois—At New Madrid, in Missouri's bootheel, I stopped to ask an elderly man a question about the earthquakes, and, after hearing about how the river flowed backwards*, mentioned my next stop upstream. He told me I should go right on past it: "I'm old. I'm 75. My grandmother used to go to Cairo to go shopping. There's nothing to see there."

When I asked him why, he paused, leaned kind of close, and dropped his voice: "Well what I've heard, it was blacks. You know what I'm saying, ok?"

Ok.

"Don't get me wrong, there are good blacks. But I think you know what I'm saying."

Musical Interlude: Delta Blues Festival

| Fri Aug. 13, 2010 2:09 AM EDT

Why Fact-Checkers Drink: According to lore, this is the crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a total mastery of the guitar.Why Fact-Checkers Drink: According to lore, blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at this crossroads in Clarksdale, in exchange for a total mastery of the guitar. Or maybe, as the gentleman in front of Church's Chicken insisted, it was the crossroads a little further up the way. Or maybe, as some say, Johnson never went to any crossroads at all. Or maybe he did, only to discover that there was no Devil to sell his soul to anyway. Or maybe it was all just an elaborate metaphor (Photo: Tim Murphy).Clarksdale, Mississippi—In the rare moments when we're not battling wildlife and evading the revenuers, we do try to have a little bit of fun on this trip. So last weekend, we took a detour through the Delta to catch a little bit of the (free!) Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale.

Anyway, here's Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm:

The View From My Windshield: Swamp Monsters

| Thu Aug. 12, 2010 5:41 PM EDT

The Last Thing You'll Ever See: Alligator, Mississippi--You'll never guess how the town of Alligator got its name. No, seriously. Giant murals notwithstanding, the town's actually named for a nearby lake, which, in turn, is kind of shaped like an alligator. But that's not what's interesThe Last Thing You'll Ever See: Alligator, Mississippi—The little Delta town of Alligator gets its name, as you might expect, from the monstrous 28-foot reptile seen above, which halved the village's population over a terrifying one-week period in 1907. No, actually, it's a bit less interesting than that. Giant mural notwithstanding, the town's actually named for a nearby lake, which, in turn, is kind of shaped like an alligator. Voila. In 2008, Alligator elected its first-ever black mayor by 10 votes, 37–27, on a platform of change and a new swimming pool (alligators not included). The full story, via the Telegraph, is actually pretty fascinating.

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