Margaret Anne Barnes, 80, award-winning author of books examining landmark events in Southern history, died Thursday of emphysema at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, according to her family.
Her 1976 book "Murder in Coweta County" details the case of a prominent white land baron who killed a sharecropper and was sentenced to death based on the testimony of two black field hands, the first case of its kind in Georgia history.
The book was made into a 1983 television movie starring Johnny Cash and Andy Griffith. It also won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award.
In 1998, she published "The Tragedy and the Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama," which examined the 120-year reign of crime in Alabama's Russell County and specifically Phenix City. The book includes the 1954 assassination of then-Alabama Atty. Gen. Albert Patterson.
A native of Newman, Ga., Barnes studied journalism at the University of Georgia. Her 1981 memoir, "A Buzzard Is My Best Friend," uses her experience living on a Virginia farm as its setting.