A life in print: Daily Egyptian and SIU mourn the loss of past editor

By Keaton Yates, Staff Reporter

Corrected 6/10/2020 2:52 p.m.

During William “Bill” Harmon’s  employment at the Daily Egyptian, his reporters covered protests, investigations into the Ku Klux Klan and UFOs in America. On June 3. 2020, Harmon passed away in his home at the age of 95. He was the DE’s managing editor from 1970 to 1988.

Steve Brown, former DE journalist from 1967 to 1971, remembers Harmon’s direct and gruff style.

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“He occupied a corner office in the newsroom. Seemed like a cigarette was always going,” Brown said. “I think it made me always ask ‘what would Mr. Harmon do?’ If I could answer the question I would have a complete story, sometimes escape his commentary and the redlining. Bill could always see something. I tried to keep that goal in place during my newspaper days.”

Harmon was known for his red pen, which is what he used to write notes of criticism, instruction and occasional praise on each issue of the DE.

He was known to value accuracy and completeness, he was open to ideas, Brown said. These values did not just stay within the DE, but with many other newsrooms he wrote and worked for.

While employed at Oklahoma State University, he was terminated for denying the order of keeping the Vietnam protests, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and free speech movements off the front page of the student newspaper according to his obituary.

When Harmon moved from OSU to Southern Illinois University, he said it was like going from desert to oasis.

He was married for 66 years and his wife passed away in 2016 after her 90th birthday. According to his obituary, he often spoke fondly of their two weddings, one being an elopement,

Harmon leaves behind six children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandsons, whom he loved fiercely, Mindy Harmon, his daughter, said.

His daughter Mindy said Harmon was not only a tough act to follow for his students, but with his family as well. 

“Our dad was like our ‘North Star’,” Mindy said. “We looked to him for direction, guidance and advice.”

Harmon held his family to high expectations, and his support was unswerving, she said. Their love for him was more than mutual, she said.

“His infamous ‘red pen’ reached into our lives in many ways, literally and figuratively,” Mindy said. “We are bereft.”

Brown said Harmon leaves behind a legacy of having a solid work ethic and maintaining high standards that journalists try to uphold. Harmon also leaves a scholarship with Daily Egyptian student staff members.

A Facebook group of past student journalists have been commenting and posting memories of their time with Harmon. 

“We knew we were learning from a special teacher during our days at the DE But it wasn’t until later when we fully appreciated how lucky we were,” Dave Kane, a former student, commented. 

Harmon’s legacy will continue to live on through his students, the Daily Egyptian and journalism everywhere.

See more: William M. “Bill” Harmon Obituary

Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.

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