Ron Harrist, who covered Elvis Presley, black separatists, white supremacists and college football legends during his 41 years as a reporter and editor in Mississippi for the Associated Press, died of complications from leukemia at his home in Brandon earlier on Saturday. Andy Harrist said. He was 77 years old.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Harrist moved with his family to Brandon, Mississippi, as a child. He studied at Mississippi College and started teaching in high school after obtaining a teaching degree. But a night job working for Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Daily News led him to change careers. He joined the AP in 1968, covering a state still struggling to adapt to the reality of equal citizenship for African Americans.
Longtime Mississippi journalist Bill Minor recalled that he and Harrist, both white men, met to cover the protracted boycott of black-owned whites in the city of Port Gibson, in southwest Mississippi. Eventually, it resulted in a historic US Supreme Court decision that states cannot prevent peaceful boycotts.
“When we headed to a church on the outskirts of the city, where black boycotts were supposed to meet later, a highway patrolman stopped by the car and said something like & # 39; Don't let the sunset catch you in town & # 39; ” Minor remembered in 2009.
Harrist interviewed members of the Black Separatist Republic of New Africa at its headquarters before a police raid triggered a gunfight with the group, accompanied Governor Bill Waller Sr. and his wife to meet Elvis during a charity concert in Jackson in 1975 and covered the year. 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith when he was found guilty of murdering civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
He was promoted to state editor in the 1970s and news editor in 1999. AP clients admired him for the comprehensive reporting he oversaw and his willingness to help members of the news cooperative.
"He knew all civil servants in all offices in all cities and towns, and they talked to him because he had earned his trust in justice and precision," said Charlie Mitchell, longtime editor of The Vicksburg Post and later assistant dean of journalism. school at the University of Mississippi.
Harrist's talent for logistics proved critical after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when simply keeping reporters on the field was a challenge.
"His calm demeanor and leadership helped our coverage in Mississippi to dominate the entire national competition, and he always knew how to get gas and supplies when no one else could find out," Michael Giarrusso, then director of news for the south and now of AP. global sports editor, he wrote at the time of Harrist's retirement in 2009.
Those who worked for and beside him remember his warm demeanor and how his guidance boosted the careers of people who worked for AP in Jackson.
"What I will always remember about him is all the people who came through the office and started doing bigger and better things," said longtime AP journalist Jack Elliott Jr.
Andy Harrist he said people always wanted to hear about his father's work, but he will also remember him as a kind father and loving grandfather.
"There was a lot more to my father than a good writer, he was" Andy Harrist said. “He drove a tractor all day on Saturday, he was a carpenter, he hunted a lot. After retiring, he never lost a ball game. He barely missed a practice.
Harrist was inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame in 2000. In addition to Andy Harrist, he leaves his wife Hendra and son Al.
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