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.

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President Obama declared a state of emergency for Florida today as Hurricane Matthew gets closer. We'll have an update about preparation there elsewhere in the program.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Republican, is fighting to keep his job. He's accused of violating judicial ethics for telling local judges they were bound by Alabama's gay marriage ban — and not the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

His trial is set to start Wednesday. He has been suspended pending the trial, and faces removal from the bench.

Susan Glisson stands on the campus of the University of Mississippi near a 1906 Confederate memorial that has long been at the center of racial strife here.

The statue — a Confederate soldier atop a gray obelisk — was a rallying point for a white mob opposing integration in a deadly 1962 riot. Decades later, Glisson recalls, she was a graduate student during dueling protests near the statue over the practice of flying Confederate battle flags at Ole Miss football games.

Things are far from normal for people in Louisiana hit by last month's historic flood. Thousands have lost their homes, their cars, their jobs.

But one routine resumed this week in Baton Rouge: Students are back in class after a three-week interruption.

At Claiborne Elementary in north Baton Rouge, kids are tussling on school playgrounds again, even as their families' soaked belongings lay in heaps along neighborhood streets.

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Now to a shocking attack here in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden was in Baton Rouge last night, speaking at a community memorial service for the three Louisiana law enforcement officers gunned down last week. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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Officials in Mississippi are now closing the investigation into one of the most notorious murders of the civil rights era, the killing by the Ku Klux Klan of three young Freedom Summer activists. Here's Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Just days after the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., last year, the pews at Emanuel AME were filled for Sunday service. A black cloth was draped over the chair where Emanuel's pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, should have been sitting.

Holding worship in the church sanctuary — while its basement was still a fresh crime scene — served as a way for the congregation to move forward while acknowledging the deaths of nine of its own.

It's been nearly a year since a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., shocked the nation.

"We woke up today, and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken," said Gov. Nikki Haley the morning after a gunman killed nine worshippers in what authorities describe as a race-based attack.

At the time, officials struggled to make sense of the crime that unfolded on June 17 during an intimate evening Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

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Transgender rights are getting a new focus in the civil rights standoff that emerged this week between the Obama administration and the state of North Carolina.

It's over a law that requires transgender people to use public restrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate.

Transgender activists were part of the movement to make same-sex marriage the law of the land, and have long been trying to get people to understand who they are. In Mobile, Ala., LGBTQ advocate Lane Galbraith says he's busy now dealing with discrimination issues.

Nashville Hot Chicken is showing up everywhere lately, from fast-food marquees to trendy restaurant menus. But to find the real thing, you might start in a nondescript strip mall on the northeast side of Nashville, Tenn.

Here at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, people line up long before the doors open to get their fix.

"Need my hot chicken," says construction worker Jose Rodriguez as he approaches the kitchen window to place his order. "I'm going to get two hot of the breast quarters."

Donald Trump's enduring appeal in the Republican presidential contest has the GOP in a quandary, as it's forced to contend with voters fed up with party politics.

Some 50 years ago, another vociferous candidate put the scare in traditional power brokers. George Wallace fired up crowds with a similar anti-establishment message, and drew protests as passionate as are being seen at Trump's rallies today. Wallace also became a face of racial tension in America as the leading symbol for segregation in the 1960s.

At a recent rally on the steps of the Mississippi state Capitol in Jackson, dozens of protesters shouted "Bring it down! Bring it down!" in opposition to the flag waving atop the building.

Mississippi is the only remaining U.S. state that still has obvious Confederate imagery in its state flag. The upper left corner, or canton, depicts the Confederate battle emblem — a red background with a blue "X" lined with white stars.

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Four states are voting today on presidential candidates. They include the state of Mississippi, where Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump both campaigned yesterday. NPR's Debbie Elliott saw them both.

The presidential contest moves South on Super Tuesday, March 1. The region is considered a firewall for Hillary Clinton because of her strong support among African-American voters, a key bloc of Southern Democrats.

Greensboro, Ala. is in the heart of the black belt — named for its rich black soil and known as a place where the right to vote is sacred.

"I'm a foot soldier," said 80-year-old Theresa Burroughs. "Every time there's a vote, I go."

Some $25 billion is headed to the five Gulf states that were devastated in the 2010 BP oil disaster. Just a fraction of the government fines and court settlements have been paid — but not all of it will end up repairing the damaged ecosystem.

New Orleans is famous for its rollicking carnival to celebrate Mardi Gras, but the party has deep roots in another Gulf Coast city, Mobile, Ala.

And in Mobile, carnival rules this time of year, even in the city council chambers. "Good morning and happy Mardi Gras," says city council president Gina Gregory as she welcomes masked and costumed revelers for a special proclamation marking 185 years of street celebrations in Mobile.

When you enter the lobby of the Orleans Public Defender's Office, expect a bit of a wait, because receptionist Chastity Tillman will likely be busy on the phone.

"The jail calls. We get them every second," Tillman says.

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