William H. Freivogel | St. Louis Public Radio

William H. Freivogel

William H. Freivogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Previously, he worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years, serving as assistant Washington Bureau Chief and deputy editorial editor. He covered the U.S. Supreme Court while in Washington. He is a graduate of Kirkwood High School, Stanford University and Washington University Law School. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 23, 2012 - Chief Justice John G. Roberts and the U.S. Supreme Court arrive at a constitutional crossroads when they take up the Affordable Care Act Monday. They can turn their backs on the past 80 years of history by sharply reducing two of the Constitution's prime sources of national power. Or they can allow the nation to proceed along the road charted by the New Deal and the Great Society.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2012 - On the last of three days of arguments on the Affordable Care Act later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will turn to the sleeper issue that could have the biggest impact on federal power -- Congress' authority under its spending power to require a big expansion of state Medicaid programs.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 24, 2012 - The Obama administration's initial proposal to require Catholic hospitals to cover contraceptive services for employees has turned into a confused, wide-ranging debate about religious freedom, freedom of conscience, women's health and a woman's right to privacy.

All of these emotional issues have become ingredients of the presidential election debate with Republican candidates accusing the president of waging a war on religion and some of the president's allies accusing Republicans of waging a war on women's health.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, challenged Kirkwood to do "three big things" to help heal the community from the wound of the deadly Feb. 7, 2008 shootings at city hall.

Charles "Cookie" Thornton's attack left five city officials dead before police killed Thornton. Mayor Mike Swoboda was gravely wounded and died seven months later. Thornton was black and the city officials white.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Almost three years have passed since Charles "Cookie" Thornton attacked the Kirkwood City Council in one of the deadliest assaults on a government body in modern American history.

In a two-minute fusillade on the evening of Feb. 7, 2008, the high school track star turned charismatic community leader turned town pariah murdered five city officials before he was killed. A sixth official, Mayor Mike Swoboda, was critically injured and died several months later.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Early in 2007, Mayor Mike Swoboda delivered a candid warning to the Kirkwood Ministerial Alliance: Meacham Park, the mostly African-American neighborhood on the edge of town, was on the verge of exploding, he said, and the white ministers needed to reach out to defuse the situation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Assistant Principal Romona Miller and walking counselor Donald Smith are the two African-American authority figures at Kirkwood High School with the most contact with black students. Miller, the only black administrator at the high school, heads the Black Achievement and Culture Club, while Smith mentors a group of African-American boys called My Brothers' Keeper.

Both Miller and Smith have proud accomplishments. This spring, Miller led about 40 students on the annual college trip, this one focusing on traditionally black colleges in the South. Meanwhile, Smith's decision to mentor one student led to requests for help from others. Now more than 70 students, including many of the school's top athletes, are in the peer mentoring group that he has organized.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When two gangs of African-American girls began fighting in the halls of Kirkwood High School this spring, Robyn Jordan, Monica Gibbs and a group of their high-achieving African-American friends got fed up. They organized to combat racial stereotypes and visited middle schools to urge girls to avoid fights when they get to high school.

Jordan and Gibbs found themselves dealing with negative stereotypes among some teachers and other students even as they wrestle with what it takes for an African-American student to achieve in a predominantly white school in a predominantly white town where they feel as though they are expected to fail.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: About 300 people gathered on the front lawn of Kirkwood City Hall on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon to dedicate a new memorial walkway to the six city officials who died as a result of the Feb. 7, 2008, attack on the city council.

Mayor Art McDonnell said no memorial could "replace what we lost," but that the walkway would remind people "every day to work as they did ... for a better community."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2010 -  The soundbites from this week's two big U.S. Supreme Court decisions were:

  • Government can continue to hold dangerous sex offenders after they serve their sentences, and;
  • Juveniles can't be sentenced to life in prison without parole if they did not commit murders.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Patrick Jackson stood alone on the stage of the packed Keating Theater at Kirkwood High School last Dec. 22, with just his double bass in his arms, playing an idiosyncratic and difficult solo called "Failing."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The relationship between Kirkwood and its predominantly African-American neighborhood of Meacham Park plays out daily in the public schools, where decades of attention to race-related issues have yielded both success and frustration.

At Kirkwood High School, African-American students have made major improvements in their graduation rate and other measures of achievement. But the number of African-American teachers has shrunk to two on a faculty of 118. Some current and former African-American faculty complain about being treated disrespectfully.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 15, 2010 - On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in an Illinois gun case that could end up pleasing liberals and conservatives and gunowners of all political stripes.

The often conservative members of the National Rifle Association will be happy if the court forces the states to abide by the Second Amendment and allow people to have handguns in their homes. Liberal and libertarian constitutional scholars will be happy if the court resurrects the "privileges or immunities" clause of the 14th Amendment and uses it as the reason to force states to recognize gun rights.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 15, 2010 - The main focus of Kirkwood's new racial mediation agreement is improving the difficult, sometimes deadly relationship between the mostly African-American Meacham Park neighborhood and the mostly white Kirkwood Police Department. But Meacham Park leaders doubt the proposed steps will resolve their complaints that police bully neighborhood residents. And police officers remain wary in the aftermath of three officers' killings by Meacham Park residents.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The main focus of Kirkwood's new racial mediation agreement is improving the difficult, sometimes deadly relationship between the mostly African-American Meacham Park neighborhood and the mostly white Kirkwood Police Department. But Meacham Park leaders doubt the proposed steps will resolve their complaints that police bully neighborhood residents. And police officers remain wary in the aftermath of three officers' killings by Meacham Park residents.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 11, 2010 - During the months after the Feb. 7, 2008, Kirkwood City Hall killings, several hundred residents gathered every couple of months to discuss how to achieve greater community understanding and healing.

Participants including Harriet Patton, president of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, and Bob Sears join hands during a memorial service Saturday evening at Douglas Memorial Church of God in Christ in Meacham Park. The event was organized to honor those who were killed in the shootings on Feb. 7, 2008 at Kirkwood City Hall.

Participants including Harriet Patton, president of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, and Bob Sears join hands during a memorial service Saturday evening at Douglas Memorial Church of God in Christ in Meacham Park.
Anthony Soufflé | For the Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: During the months after the Feb. 7, 2008, Kirkwood City Hall killings, several hundred residents gathered every couple of months to discuss how to achieve greater community understanding and healing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 10, 2010 - Sometimes, in his dreams, Kirkwood City Attorney John Hessel is back in City Hall. He is reading exhibits into the record when the commotion starts.

He runs, only this time maybe he runs toward a different door. Maybe he can't get to it in time. Maybe the man holding two guns cuts him off. In every dream, he does something just a little different.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 9, 2010 - I entered Frank P. Tillman elementary school in Kirkwood in 1954, the first year that the Kirkwood public schools desegregated. That didn't mean there were any black students. There weren't.

Kirkwood was desegregating not because it chose to, but because it was the law of the land. Before Brown vs. Board of Education was announced that spring, Kirkwood had been fighting a group of black parents who had gone to federal court to force desegregation. After Brown, a federal court ordered Kirkwood desegregated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I entered Frank P. Tillman elementary school in Kirkwood in 1954, the first year that the Kirkwood public schools desegregated. That didn't mean there were any black students. There weren't.

Kirkwood was desegregating not because it chose to, but because it was the law of the land. Before Brown vs. Board of Education was announced that spring, Kirkwood had been fighting a group of black parents who had gone to federal court to force desegregation. After Brown, a federal court ordered Kirkwood desegregated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two men walked on the moon before Meacham Park had paved roads and modern sewers. Public services were so poor in 1966 that five children died in a Meacham Park house fire after the community's volunteer fire department's engine wouldn't start.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Perception often collides with facts when it comes to race. That is especially true in the intertwined story of Kirkwood's redevelopment of its Meacham Park neighborhood and Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton's deadly assault at City Hall on Feb. 7, 2008.

Thornton, a resident of Meacham Park, was once a leading supporter of the redevelopment in the predominantly African-American neighborhood, but he became disaffected. He killed five city officials and shot Mayor Mike Swoboda, who died later that year. Thornton was killed by police.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 5, 2010 - Perception often collides with facts when it comes to race. That is especially true in the intertwined story of Kirkwood's redevelopment of its Meacham Park neighborhood and Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton's deadly assault at City Hall on Feb. 7, 2008.

Thornton, a resident of Meacham Park, was once a leading supporter of the redevelopment in the predominantly African-American neighborhood, but he became disaffected. He killed five city officials and shot Mayor Mike Swoboda, who died later that year. Thornton was killed by police.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Sometimes, in his dreams, Kirkwood City Attorney John Hessel is back in City Hall. He is reading exhibits into the record when the commotion starts.

He runs, only this time maybe he runs toward a different door. Maybe he can't get to it in time. Maybe the man holding two guns cuts him off. In every dream, he does something just a little different.

In every dream, he dies.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Kirkwood City Council voted Thursday night to adopt a mediation agreement committing it to improve its human rights commission and to expand police involvement with young people in the Meacham Park neighborhood. But even before the council voted, some leaders in Meacham Park accused the mediation process of failing to face up to Kirkwood's racial problem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 21, 2010 - In a major decision rejecting its precedents and a century of history, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to corporate funding of independent expenditures supporting the election of political candidates. The ruling could lead to huge infusions of corporate and union money into the election process.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Officials from the city of Kirkwood and the U.S. Department of Justice will sign a formal agreement Thursday, completing a two-year racial mediation process that followed the killings on Feb. 7, 2008, in the Kirkwood City Hall. Five city officials and the gunman were killed. A sixth official, Mayor Mike Swoboda, was critically injured in the shootings and died later that year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 10, 2009 - State Sen. Jane Cunningham's constitutional amendment to nullify a proposed federal health mandate would likely be unconstitutional, legal experts say. Cunningham is a Republican from west St. Louis County.

The dominant view among legal scholars is that Congress has the power to enact the proposed federal health-care law and that a state law or constitutional provision passed to block it would be thrown out as unconstitutional. Missouri could no more opt out of the health bill than it could opt out of federal minimum wage laws, experts say.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 8, 2009 - The Missouri Supreme Court said Tuesday that it "expects" presiding judges, prosecutors and public defenders to "work together cooperatively" to address the overloaded public defender system and find ways to provide poor defendants with effective legal counsel.

This article fist appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 21, 2009 - At a time when newspapers are going to court to protect the identity of anonymous posters to their websites, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's director of social media took the opposite tack last week. When an anonymous poster filed a vulgar comment on the newspaper's website, Kurt Greenbaum noticed the IP address was at a local school and forwarded the offending comment to the headmaster. The school confronted asuspected employee who resigned.

Pages