PR Week brings the sad news of the passing of Thomas L. Harris, APR, Fellow PRSA, one-time president of the firm then known as Golin/Harris International, at age 86.
Tom joined Al Golin at Golin Communications in 1978 after founding and serving as president of Foote Cone & Belding Public Relations in Chicago; as EVP at Edelman; and as VP of PR for Needham, Harper & Steers (now DDB). Al renamed the firm Golin/Harris in 1981 to recognize Tom’s contributions. Tom and Al not only were legendary PR practitioners, they were great guys and living links to the “Mad Men” era. I worked at Golin/Harris for more than a decade in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, and knew them both.
Tom authored two must-read books: The Marketer’s Guide to Public Relations, published in 1993 and updated in 2006; and Choosing and Working with Your Public Relations Firm, in 1992. I highly recommend them.
Tom was a sophisticated jazz fan, with a huge record collection. My favorite memory of him concerns a Chicago street musician who routinely brought his tenor sax to the stretch of North Michigan Avenue beneath Tom’s office window. The sax player would belt out a tuneless rendition of the Dave Brubeck classic “Take Five,” but he only knew the first few measures, so he would repeat them over and over.
This butchery of a cornerstone of the modern jazz repertoire so offended Tom’s sensibilities that he would send his executive assistant down to the street to give the saxophonist five dollars to go play on a different corner, out of earshot – at least for that day.
Rest in peace, Tom. I hope the music is great where you are.