Veteran Miss. political reporter Fields dies at 86 - - Jackson, MS

Veteran Miss. political reporter Fields dies at 86

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Norma L. Fields, who spent nearly three decades covering state politics, feature stories and other news for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, has died. She was 86.

Fields died Sunday at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo after a brief hospitalization, said one of her daughters, Victoria Fields.

Born in 1923, Fields grew up in north Mississippi's Union County during the Great Depression. She worked in Washington, D.C., for the Navy during World War II before returning to Mississippi.

Fields did some undergraduate work at the University of Mississippi. She began her journalism career in 1962 as a business reporter for Business Bureau Reports in Austin, Texas.

In 1963, Fields became a part-time correspondent for the Daily Journal and worked for the northeast Mississippi newspaper for the rest of her active career.

After writing feature and news articles for the Journal for about 10 years, Fields was made Capitol news reporter in Jackson in 1975. Fields won many state and national awards for reporting.

Bill Minor, former Mississippi Capitol correspondent with The Times Picayune and a close friend of Fields, said he met Fields during her early days at the Tupelo newspaper.

"Back when she was a reporter, she concentrated on several things - one in particular was the Highway Commission," Minor said. "She really bird-dogged the Highway Commission. She made life miserable for those guys, as she could well do."

"Calling Norma feisty is an understatement," Minor said.

State Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, interned at the Daily Journal during summers when he was in college in the early 1970s. He said he and Fields became friends then.

"Norma, I think, must've invented herself," Bryan said. "She was in rural Mississippi ... and then wound up being a political reporter. It's difficult to step back in time and imagine what that was like. It took someone with a force of personality to do that."

Bryan said people often described Fields as gruff.

"If she hadn't been that way, she wouldn't have been in Jackson reporting on this stuff in the first place," he said.

Minor said Fields was largely self-taught as a journalist.

"But she became a better reporter than many J-school graduates, for that matter, on her own," he said.

Fields retired from the newspaper in 1988 but continued to do some freelance work. Also in 1988, she became a Turner Catledge fellow at Mississippi State University.

Fields donated her papers to the school, including material on her coverage of legislative sessions, women's rights, local and state politics. Also included was material on the administrations of former Govs. Cliff Finch, Bill Allain, William Winter and Ray Mabus.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Tupelo.

Fields donated her body to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, according to family and friends.

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