In the 1930’s, Ray Simmons is a young paper mill worker living in a small South Alabama mill town. Surprisingly, he does not share the racially biased beliefs of most white folks he knows, including his father, a grand Dragon in the local Ku KluxMoreIn the 1930’s, Ray Simmons is a young paper mill worker living in a small South Alabama mill town. Surprisingly, he does not share the racially biased beliefs of most white folks he knows, including his father, a grand Dragon in the local Ku Klux Klan. Ray is an unassuming man, and it is not his style to challenge or denounce the beliefs of others.
He extends respect, kindness, and compassion to his fellow man- but, he keeps his thoughts to himself unless, or until, he has ample reason to do otherwise. Ultimately, life in South Alabama provokes him to do otherwise and, as racial equality issues evolve, he is unable to avoid becoming involved.After his fathers untimely death, Ray feels duty bound to look after his mother- he moves into an unfinished house on the lot next to his mother, in an undeveloped and rural area of the county. This is the beginning of the end of Rays less than stable marriage to Sarah, an emotionally unstable woman.
She adores living in town and resents this move.Ray is a caring, hands-on father to his children, he considers it his job to instill in them racial acceptance and justice and when he leaves Sarah, he is not at all confident in her ability to parent the children. The fact that his mother spends a great deal of time with helping Sarah with the children eases his worries a little.Not long after his divorce, Ray meets his soul mate, Grace. Within a year, they are married. Grace shares Rays views on racial equality, his love of fishing, his approach to life, and his desire to make a stable home for his children.The headquarters of the paper company changes its promotion policy.
The new policy states that blacks must begin getting some of the more desirable and better paying jobs. This doesnt sit well with union bosses and some department managers. It is no secret that white bigots largely control the union.
Resistance to the new policy creates a dangerous and violent atmosphere that Ray is unable to ignore. He reports the situation to trusted executives at the company headquarters in NY and ultimately becomes an undercover informer for the FBI.The deep South is rapidly changing, there are attempts to integrate the University of Alabama - blacks boycotting white business - southern politicians denouncing blacks - blacks denouncing southern politicians - the Ku Klux Klan becoming extremely violent with uppity niggers’, northern agitators, and southern ‘nigger lovers.
These things are having a personal impact on Ray and his family. Paper mill executives and the FBI fear for the safety of his family and assigns agents to protect them.Prompted by the rumor that a Klan sharp shooter might make an attempt on Carys life by shooting into the crowd at Cary’s graduation ceremony, the high school principal asks him not to take part in it. Cary, disgusted by recent events and no longer feeling safe in the south, refuses to attend college- instead, he joins the Navy and gets the hell out of Dixie.Until the day he dies, Ray steadfastly refuses to accept accolades for or even discuss his role in the integration of the south Alabama paper mill.
He firmly insists that he took no pride in helping clean up a mess that never should have existed in the first place.