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It's a small, small world…dead chicken man edition

What did Frank Purdue have in common with the mannequin-like First Lady ?

Gary Ashwill over at Facing South, the blog of the Institute of Southern Studies, dug up some interesting facts about the late poultry baron Frank Purdue, who died last week.

It happens that Southern Exposure introduced the nation to some of these less savory aspects of Perdue’s life and business, in a 1989 package of stories that (ahem) won the National Magazine Award. In one of the articles, Barbara Goldoftas exposed the debilitating carpal tunnel injuries many workers suffered; that same year, the state of North Carolina fined Perdue Farms $40,000 when it was shown that 36 percent of the workers in two plants had carpal tunnel syndrome.

One of the biggest scoops (by our founding editor, Bob Hall) was discovering that Perdue, an incorrigibly reckless driver, had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in 1974 when he “ignored or overlooked warning signs and red lights” on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and collided with two cars, killing one person. But Perdue’s expensive lawyer got the charges dropped and the court records expunged; as one court official told Southern Exposure, “There was a lot of grease on the wheel of this one.”

Perdue’s lawyer? None other than Arlen Specter, now U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. During Specter’s first senatorial campaign in 1986, Perdue contributed the maximum $2,000; a heavy contributor for many years to Republicans such as Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth (along with some Democrats), Perdue also gave $20,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee between 1985 and 1987.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding