Author, editor, Pulitzer Prize winner. Born in Greenville on July 28, 1916, to William Green Ashmore and Nancy Elizabeth Scott, Harry Ashmore grew up in relative poverty but obtained a general science degree from Clemson College in 1937. He demonstrated exceptional writing skills and pursued a journalism career after serving as editor on his high school and college newspapers.
Ashmore’s reputation as a journalist grew at the Greenville Piedmont and Greenville News, garnering him a Nieman Fellowship in 1941. His editorials at the Charlotte (N.C.) News led to a job at the Arkansas Gazette in 1947.
One of several southern journalists whose “liberal” views on desegregation and civil rights attracted national attention and local scorn, Ashmore won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials opposing Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus’s attempt to stop the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. However, Ashmore shunned the “liberal” tag, claiming to be a gradualist—supporting the removal of the “separate but equal” system by degrees.
Ashmore’s 1954 book, The Negro and the Schools, summarized a massive Ford Foundation research project on the disparate biracial educational system in the South. Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court later told Ashmore the research findings influenced the Court’s desegregation implementation decision.
After leaving the Gazette in 1959, Ashmore served as editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica and joined Robert Maynard Hutchins’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California, where he lived until his death. During his career Ashmore wrote ten books, many of which discussed the changing attitudes in the New South. He explained, “All of these books of mine, with all the examining, I’m trying to examine my own attitude. How did I get to this point from where I started? What changed my mind?” Ashmore died in Santa Barbara on January 20, 1998.
Ashmore, Harry S. Civil Rights and Wrongs: A Memoir of Race and Politics, 1944–1996. Rev. ed. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
———. An Epitaph for Dixie. New York: Norton, 1958. Sawyer, Nathania K. “Harry S. Ashmore: On the Way to Everywhere.” Master’s thesis, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2001.