Tim Isbell's life-long interest in the Civil War began when he was a 10-year-old boy living in Jackson, Miss. A family visit to the Old Capital Museum, which was followed by a trip to the Vicksburg national military Park, served to spark his interest in this tragic period of American history. For Isbell the lure of the Civil War and the larger-than-life personalities that emerged during the conflict made it his passion to learn more about that era.
Isbell, 1983 graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi's School of Mass Communication, has worked as a photojournalist at the Brookhaven Daily Leader, the Biloxi Sun Herald, the Tuscaloosa News and the Natchez Democrat. The bulk of Isbell's 25-year career has been spent at The Sun Herald.
Isbell chose to combine his love of history with his journalism training to produce three books, Gettysburg: Sentinels of Stone, Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone, and Shiloh & Corinth: Sentinels of Stone. Isbell hopes to continue the process of documenting the nation's Civil War battlefields. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War just a few years away, Isbel feels his project is even more important.
Isbell has also recently completed a similar project chronicling Mississippi's Civil Rights struggles starting with the Jim Crow era and ending when the state's schools were integrated in 1970. "I grew up during this era and experienced some of the strife. Writing this book has been difficult because of the hatred that seemed to run rampant at that time, but I see it as a worthy endeavor," Isbell said.
Prior to his Civil War books, Isbell was best known for his nine-month photographic study of the Vietnamese people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His photographs ran in a seven-day, 130-photo documentary titled "The People Within." That project won a Knight Foundation National Endowment for the Arts grant for a cross-country traveling museum show. In 2006, Isbell was part of the Sun Herald newsroom that won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
In 1996, Isbell was honored to be asked to teach the photojournalism curriculum as "Photojournalist in residence" at The University of Southern Mississippi. In 2007, Isbell was named to the university's School of Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame. Through it all, Isbell's interest in the Civil War never waned. He said he feels extremely lucky that his wife and son also have an interest in history. This makes the numerous visits to the battlefields a "family affair."