Debbie Elliott

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South and occasionally guest-hosting NPR news programs. She covers the latest news and politics and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.

For more than two decades, Elliott has been one of NPR's top breaking news reporters. She's covered dozens of natural disasters – tornadoes, floods, and major hurricanes including Andrew, Katrina, and Harvey. She reported on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, introducing NPR listeners to teenage boys orphaned in the disaster who were struggling to survive on their own.

She spent months exclusively reporting on the nation's worst man-made environmental disaster, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, documenting its lingering impact on Gulf coast communities, and the complex legal battles that ensued. Her series "The Disappearing Coast" examined Louisiana's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the disaster's lasting imprint on a fragile coastline.

She was honored with a 2018 Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation for crisis coverage, in part for her work covering deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the mass murder of worshippers at a rural Texas church. She was part of the NPR team covering the impact of the mass shootings at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

A particular focus for Elliott is exploring how Americans live through the prism of race, culture, and history. She's looked at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, including the integration of Little Rock's Central High, the assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. She contributed a four-part series on the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee.

She was present for the reopening of civil rights era murder cases, covering trials in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham; the murder of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer; and the killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

In 2018, she won a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award for a radio feature about Mississippi confronting its past with a new civil rights museum.

Elliott has followed national debates over immigration, healthcare, abortion, tobacco, voting rights, religious freedom, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, Confederate monuments, criminal justice, and policing in America. She reported on the tense aftermath of the Alton Sterling killing in Baton Rouge, when three law enforcement officers were killed in an ambush. She examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, a shortage of public defenders in Louisiana, the incarceration of girls in Florida, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup.

Elliott has profiled key figures in politics and the arts, including historian John Hope Franklin, children's book author Eric Carle, musician Trombone Shorty, and former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. She covered the funerals of the King of the Blues, BB King, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Her stories give a taste of southern culture, from the Nashville hot chicken craze to the traditions of Mardi Gras, and the roots of American music at Mississippi's new Grammy Museum. She's highlighted little-known treasures such as the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' Lower 9th ward, a remote Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama, and the Cajun Christmas tradition of lighting bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Elliott is a former host of NPR's All Things Considered on the Weekends, and a former Capitol Hill correspondent. She's covered Congressional and Presidential elections for nearly three decades.

Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and graduated from the University of Alabama. Prior to joining NPR, she worked in commercial and public radio in Alabama. Elliott lives in south Alabama with her husband, two children, and a pet beagle.

Life in Charlottesville, Va., has been disrupted by the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally over the weekend. On the eve of the memorial for one of the victims, counterprotester Heather Heyer, President Trump blamed those counterprotesters — what he called the "alt-left" – for stoking the violence.

After Trump's remarks, Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy had to control his anger. He says the president is showing where his loyalties lie.

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As speculation abounds in Washington, D.C., over Attorney General Jeff Session's future given President Trump's recent tweets and comments, back home in Alabama, there's a raucous race for his former Senate seat.

To one extent or another, the top three contenders in the crowded Republican primary are trying to cast themselves as stalwart allies of the president or as embodiments of Trump's unfiltered, take-no-prisoners style of politics.

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As speculation continues in Washington over Attorney General Jeff Sessions' future, in his home state, Alabama, there's a raucous race for his former Senate seat. And President Trump is playing a big role in that race. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

There's a fight brewing over who can fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, and for how long. And it's serious politics.

Recreational anglers pushed the Trump administration to intervene after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration set the shortest recreational snapper season on record – just three days in June. The result was a deal between the Commerce Department and Gulf states to extend the season.

The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a legal dispute over the death penalty that pits a local prosecutor against the governor.

At issue is whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to remove cases from State Attorney Aramis Ayala of Orlando because she won't seek the death penalty.

A federal judge is ordering Alabama to improve the way it treats mentally ill prisoners after ruling that the state fails to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care in state lockups.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery says Alabama is putting prisoners' lives at risk with "horrendously inadequate" care and a lack of services for inmates with psychiatric problems.

Eight miles down a dirt road through the swamps of southwest Alabama, Lane Zirlott has 1.8 million oysters in the water at his family's farm in Sandy Bay.

"What we've been doing is trying to redefine what people are thinking of a Southern gulf oyster," Zirlott says.

The Murder Point oyster farm covers about two and half acres in the bay. The name changed from "Myrtle Point" in 1929, after a deadly dispute over oyster territory.

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(Laughter). We're joined onstage now by our very own Debbie Elliott, NPR's Southern correspondent...

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hello.

SIMON: ...And John Archibald is a columnist here at al.com.

JOHN ARCHIBALD: Hey.

(APPLAUSE)

When State Attorney Aramis Ayala, a Democrat, announced in March that she would no longer seek the death penalty in capital cases, Republican Gov. Scott took away more than 20 murder cases in her jurisdiction. Now, Ayala is suing Scott to get them back.

At issue is whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to remove cases from a state attorney who refuses to seek capital punishment.

The state Supreme Court is considering where the power resides.

Recovering alcoholics tend to avoid the bar. But when the bar is your office, that's not so easy. New Orleans bluesman Anders Osborne figured out how to get back to work despite the temptations, and now he's trying to help others.

Drugs and alcohol nearly destroyed Osborne's career, and his family. The guitarist and singer-songwriter was showing up for tour dates unable to perform. At his worst, he was spending nights on a park bench.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has won a delay in impeachment hearings that were due to start next week in the state legislature.

He's been fighting in court to avoid facing embarrassing charges that he misused his office to cover up an alleged affair.

Lawyers for the two-term Republican have won a temporary restraining order delaying impeachment proceedings that were set to begin Monday in the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. A Montgomery circuit judge granted Bentley more time to respond to the allegations.

Death penalty laws are on the books in 31 states, but only five carried out executions last year. Now Arkansas is rushing to execute death row inmates at an unprecedented pace this month, before the state's supply of lethal drugs expires.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is removing Orlando's chief prosecutor from a number of murder cases in an ongoing dispute over the death penalty.

Through executive order, the Republican governor is reassigning 22 first-degree murder cases from State Attorney Aramis Ayala to a prosecutor who handles a different judicial circuit.

Ayala, a Democrat, is the first black elected prosecutor in Florida, and has said she will not seek the death penalty in Orange and Osceola counties, one of the largest judicial circuits in the state.

On a cold and windy day off the coast of Alabama, a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts gathers, conducting the first test outside a laboratory for a potential new solution to a challenging problem: cleaning oil spills from water.

The invention, the Flame Refluxer, is "very simple," says Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering: Imagine a giant Brillo pad of copper wool sandwiched between layers of copper screen, with springy copper coils attached to the top.

In Louisiana, people arrested for serious crimes who can't afford a lawyer often are put on a waiting list for representation. A new lawsuit says the situation is unconstitutional.

This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR's National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election.

Keitra Bates is standing in front of an empty storefront on Atlanta's Westside. The walls are yellow-painted stucco over cinder blocks, with iron bars on the windows and doors, and a small side yard littered with abandoned tires. A corner store, the Fair Street Superette, is next door.

As the Trump administration moves to step up deportations, immigrant rights groups are organizing a resistance.

"No papers, no fear" is the message at a meeting of the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans. A mostly Latino crowd is packed in the sanctuary of a church. They encourage one another to stand up for their rights.

"Fear is our fuel," says speaker Leticia Casildo as the audience cheers.

She says they're fighting for their families.

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At lunch hour, the line stretches out the door at Taqueria del Sol on Atlanta's west side. Inside, the tiny kitchen is a swirl of activity.

"This is my crew," says co-owner and chef Eddie Hernandez. "They're all from Mexico."

The menu is a hybrid of cuisine from his native Monterrey, Mexico, and down-home Southern cooking, like tangy turnip greens seasoned with red chilies and re-fried black-eyed peas.

"The food can get us together," Hernandez says, "and make us think differently about each other."

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A lawsuit on behalf of Alabama's prisoners, claiming they're being denied mental health care, begins in federal court Monday. The class-action suit states that Alabama doesn't provide adequate mental health treatment for those behind bars.

Lawyers for the prisoners argue that the state provides little other than medication, and sometimes inmates are forced to take it against their will. The plaintiffs allege prison conditions are dangerous and discriminatory, which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Jeff Sessions of Alabama was the first Republican senator to get behind the-then renegade candidate Trump. Now, he is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general — and his hard-line stance on immigration and 30-year-old allegations of racism are sure to draw scrutiny in confirmation hearings.

Long before Trump was winning primaries, or picking up political endorsements, he had a conservative ally in the Deep South.

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And now a view from some African-Americans in conservative South Carolina. NPR's Debbie Elliott spoke with voters trying to make sense of the election.

Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke drew protesters to a U.S. Senate candidate debate in Louisiana on Wednesday night.

He's in a crowded field to replace retiring Republican Sen. David Vitter and earned enough support in polls to make the cut for this final debate, hosted by Raycom Media at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.

Dillard officials say they didn't know who would be participating when they agreed to rent the hall.

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