Friday, May 26, 2017

Alabama Author: Garrard Harris

Garrard Harris is one of many now forgotten authors who were not state natives but have some other connection to Alabama. Let's investigate.

He was born close to us, in Columbus, Georgia, on May 14, 1875, the son of James and Gertrude Harris. He attended the University of Georgia and North Georgia Agricultural College before earning a law degree from Millsap College, located in Jackson, Mississippi, and founded by Methodists in 1890. He remained in the state capital practicing law for about a decade before embarking on a career of government service. While in Jackson he married Mary Lou Sykes in November, 1906.

Harris was a special agent with the U.S. Department of Commerce to Latin America from 1914 until 1917; a specialist and editor at the Federal Board of Vocational Education in Washington, 1918-1919; and finally a commissioner at the U.S. Department of Commerce during 1919 and 1920. Several of his publications reflect his government work: Central America as an Export Field [1915], Redemption of the Disabled [1919] and Elements of Conservation [1924].

Harris had an interest in writing fiction which began at an early age. As the list below indicates, he published a short piece in the magazine Short Stories in November 1893. He continued publishing short stories until his death.

He also wrote three novels during his years with the federal government: Joe the Book Farmer [1914], Trail of the Pearl [1917], and Treasure of the Land [1917]. All three were published by Harper and Brothers, an American publisher founded in 1817 and adopting that name from 1833 until 1962. The global firm is known as HarperCollins today.

Joe the Book Farmer and Treasure of the Land depict the programs developed by state and local governments to bring modern farming methods to rural America. The optimistic young people who are attracted to these efforts reflect the beliefs of the author and many others in government trying to address rural poverty. Trail of the Pearl follows young orphan Buckner Allen as he tries to educated himself and escape the poverty and moonshine culture of the mountain people around him.

 After those years in government, Harris and Mary settled in Birmingham, where he worked for the Birmingham News from 1920 until his death in March 1927. Mary apparently never remarried and was living with her mother in Ashville, North Carolina, at the time of her death in 1944. She is buried alongside Garrard in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. The couple had one child, also Garrard, who died in 1979

Further comments follow some of the items below.

This novel was serialized in four issues of American Boy in 1911. Joe Weston is the son of a sharecropper. Joe, his father and the landowner Mr. Somerville enter into an agreement that allows Joe and the landowner to work four of his father's acres for a year according to the progressive methods taught in books about modern farming and lectures by men from the state and federal governments. Joe's father Tom is dismissive of such ideas, but gives permission since Mr. Somerville has offered to erase his $160 debt.  

Source: Internet Archive

Source: Google Books

Source: Google Books

This digitized The Treasure of the Land originated with a print copy at the University of Illinois library. At the time of digitization, the book had only been checked out once--over ten years after Harris' death.

Harris is buried in Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery, along with his wife Mary.

Source: Find-A-Grave

Source: Find-A-Grave

Fictionmags Index for Garrard Harris as of April 2017. There may be other published stories not yet indexed in the FMI.

No comments:

Post a Comment