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Southern History Writer Margaret Anne Barnes, 80

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By Daniel Yee
Associated Press
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Margaret Anne Barnes, an author of books examining landmark events in Southern history, has died after a long battle with emphysema. She was 80.

The Decatur, Ga., writer died Oct. 11 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, said her son, David Dukes of Decatur.

Dukes said his mother had a "real appreciation for Southern justice," which led her to write about real-life events in Georgia and Alabama history.

Ms. Barnes wrote the 1976 book "Murder in Coweta County," which detailed the first time in Georgia history that testimony from two black field hands helped convict a prominent land baron for the murder of a tenant sharecropper.

The book, which won an Edgar Allan Poe award, was made into a 1983 television movie starring Johnny Cash and Andy Griffith.

In 1987, she penned her autobiography, "A Buzzard Is My Best Friend," detailing her life as a farmer, Dukes said.

Five years later, she wrote "The Tragedy and the Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama," which examined the city's political turmoil in the 1950s. Ms. Barnes's book includes an account of the 1954 assassination of Alabama Attorney General-elect Albert Patterson in Phenix City.

"Her book . . . has added a tremendous amount to the history of Alabama, and what she's done here is good and will be a lasting thing in the history of the state of Alabama," said Patterson's son, former Alabama governor John Patterson. "Her book also is a lesson for any community who lets its community get in the shape that Phenix City was in. She exposes what was really bad in a place that's been taken over by organized crime."

In addition to David Dukes, survivors include another son, Steven Dukes of San Francisco; a brother; a sister; and a granddaughter.

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