Harkey, Who Won Pulitzer for Desegregation Editorials, Dies at 88

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Ira B. Harkey Jr., who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for editorials he wrote as editor and publisher of a newspaper here during the desegregation of the University of Mississippi, died Sunday in Kerrville, Tex., where he had made his home. He was 88.

The cause was complications of Parkinson?s disease, said his eldest son, Ira III.

Mr. Harkey?s editorials were recognized by the Pulitzer Prize administrators as courageous support for the processes of law and reason during the desegregation crisis of 1962, in which federal marshals and troops were needed to quell rioting that threatened to prevent James Meredith from becoming the first black student at Ole Miss.

Having called for the peaceful admission of Mr. Meredith, Mr. Harkey faced not only outspoken criticism across the state but also threats to his life and a boycott of his newspaper and its advertisers. A cross was burned in front of the office of his newspaper, The Chronicle Star (now The Mississippi Press). A rifle shot was fired into the front door, and a shotgun blast took out a window.

Long before, in the wake of the Supreme Court?s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, a cross had already been burned in front of his home.

Mr. Harkey detailed these events in his autobiography, ?The Smell of Burning Crosses,? in 1967.

Mr. Harkey served in the Navy during World War II and then worked in New Orleans for The Times-Picayune before buying the Pascagoula paper in 1949. He sold it after bringing it from a weekly to a semiweekly and then five-day publication. He later taught journalism at Ohio State University, then worked at the University of Alaska.

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