Award-winning documentary filmmaker Mike Letcher, a native of Shorter, Alabama and resident of Northport, has died after a short Illness. He was 71.
Letcher, working in collaboration with cinematographer Preston Sullivan, operated Dragonfly Public Media, an independent production partnership specializing in publicly funded and distributed media celebrating democratic values. He also spent more than 40 years with the Alabama Center for Public Television at the University of Alabama, where he served as Production Manager.
Letcher’s films most often aired on Alabama Public Television and were frequently picked up for national broadcast by PBS stations across the country. Two of those films, Tuskegee, Alabama: Living Black & White and In the Path of the Storms, telling the story of the Alabama fishing village of Bayou La Batre, won regional Emmys.
“Mike was just an amazing story-teller,” said Alabama author Frye Gaillard, who worked with Letcher on two documentaries. “He understood the hurt in the world, and was drawn to people who tried to make it better, who lived decent lives, and believed in small-d democratic values. As he did. I always thought Mike’s kindness was the animating force in his films – that and his respect for his subjects, and for the talent of his collaborators like Preston Sullivan. I can’t tell you how much he will be missed.”
“Mike was always a calming force,” said Alabama photographer Sheila Hagler, who worked with Letcher on In the Path of the Storms. “His calmness was matched by his passion for community, for story-telling, and his compassion for others. I am heart-broken. “
One of Letcher’s most critically praised films was God’s Will, telling the story of Will Campbell, a beloved and controversial Southern Baptist author and theologian, who was born in Mississippi and became one of earliest and most ardent white supporters of the civil rights movement.
Letcher graduated from the University of Alabama with an undergraduate degree in sociology and a Masters in American Studies.
He was beloved as a husband, father and friend. He is survived by his wife, Mary Weekes Letcher; daughter, Samantha Woods; brothers, Greg Cuzzort and wife, Jane Cuzzort, Don Cuzzort and wife, Barbara Cuzzort; stepson, Zach Rives and wife, Alyssa Rives; cousins, Donnie Barrett and wife Lottie Barrett, Ron Barrett and Jim Sapser, as well as nephews, nieces, grand nephews and grand niece.
He was preceded in death by his adoptive mother, Bertha Letcher, and father, John Talbert Letcher; birth mother, Sue Cuzzort; birth father, George Cuzzort.
A memorial service is planned for later in the Spring.