Husband and Wife Transform Book about Little-Known Civil Rights Leader

From the October 2017 Desktop News | In 2009, UA history professor Dr. David Beito and wife Dr. Linda Royster Beito, associate dean of Arts and Sciences at Stillman College, released a book called “Black Maverick,” a biography of black civil rights pioneer Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard, called T.R.M. Howard for short.

The book received positive reviews, but Howard’s story remained confined to a 304-page book that some might never open.

For the Beitos, that was not enough. The story of T.R.M. Howard needed to reach a wider audience. So in 2015, the two attempted something they had never done before: writing a screenplay about a part of Howard’s life.

The move paid off.

“Keepin’ It Mighty Hot” won first place in the Alabama Writers’ Conclave 2017 Screenwriting Competition. The prize was $100 and an opportunity for the script to be made into a film by independent producers at Council Tree Productions.

Heidi Carroll, an AWC coordinator, said this was the AWC’s first screenplay competition and the Beitos’ script was selected from 47 entries. Writers were asked to submit entries that reflect “the myriad of experiences, lives and points of view that all make up life in the Deep South,” particularly stories featuring minority, class, and gender identity issues.

The Beitos are not professional screenwriters, so they were pleasantly surprised that they won.

“This is a very prestigious and old writers’ organization,” he said. “They’re poets and fiction writers, just a wide range of people, so it’s very encouraging to us to win this.”

The next step: the silver screen or TV.

“The goal is to get this to be a movie or a miniseries. It would be better as a miniseries because there’s so much about Dr. Howard, who was the P.T. Barnum of civil rights—a very funny and colorful character.”