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James Harrell was born in Selma, Alabama in 1924. He flew 28 missions as a B-17 gunner during World War II. After the war, he attended the University of California (Berkeley), and did post-graduate studies at The Sorbonne. After a career with an international hotel chain, he joined his brother in a health care business. Married with two daughters, Harrell lives in Sarasota, Florida. His keen interest in the American Civil War is partly driven by the fact that his grandfather lost his right arm at the battle of Gettysburg.
In 2006, Harrell announced the Jim Harrell Poetry Scholarship Awards, open to Alabama high school students. Winners will be recognized at the Mentevallo Literary Festival, held every year in April. Additionally, Harrell donated to the libraries of every Alabama high school and college, public and private, a copy of These I Would Keep, an anthology of verse by Alabama’s poet laureates, edited by Helen Blackshear, eighth poet laureate, and his Civil War novel, Their Last Ten Miles.
In making these gifts to Alabama school children, Mr. Harrell shared that at the age of 12 he was encouraged by one of his teachers to study and write poetry and that doing so opened his mind and changed his life. He says he also “discovered that reading and writing poetry was fun.” Mr. Harrell said he had long wanted “to find an opportunity to encourage the interest of students in Alabama in the written word.” The creation of the poetry competition and scholarship was one step toward that goal. While working on that project, he read and was inspired by the Alabama voices represented in These I Would Keep, which led to the second part of his gift.
Books by James (Jim) Harrell: