Ira Harkey was the outspoken editor of The Pascagoula Chronicle (now the Mississippi Press) from 1948-63. Harkey’s writings called for peaceful integration of schools, noting that local leaders were essential to this effort. Harkey believed James Meredith deserved the opportunity to attend Ole Miss and, despite death threats, he wrote in favor of that position. Local white supremacist groups organized against him resulting in decreased circulation and advertising. Despite these difficulties, he held firm to his beliefs. In 1963, Harkey won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writing during the University of Mississippi’s integration, though few acknowledged the positive contribution he made.
In 1967, Harkey wrote his autobiography, “The Smell of Burning Crosses.” The title is attributed to a cross that was burned in his yard after the 1954 Supreme Court ruled on the issue of integration.
Harkey taught at Ohio State University, the University of Alaska, and Columbia University.
He died on October 8, 2006.
Crocker, Brad. “Ira Harker’s Death Energizes Documentary,”The Missisippi Press. 22 October 2006.
“Ira Harkey, 88; Won Pulitzer for Editorials,”New York Times. 11 October 2006.