Author Sam Heys speaking at Auburn Family Friday Speaker Series

Published: September 20, 2019
Updated: September 24, 2019
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Award-winning author and journalist Sam Heys will continue the Auburn Family Friday Speaker Series Sept. 27 at 3 p.m. at the Auburn Alumni Center. The event is being held in conjunction with Black Alumni Weekend.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of integration of Auburn athletics, Heys will discuss the life of one of the first black basketball players in the Southeastern Conference, Henry Harris, as he presents “Remember Henry Harris.” Harris came to Auburn in 1968 and was the first African American to play a team sport at Auburn.

“That year, Auburn essentially became the leader in moving toward equality and justice in the Deep South. Within a year of Auburn making the first move by signing Harris, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi State all integrated their football or basketball programs, and LSU and Ole Miss did so within two years of Harris coming to Auburn,” Heys said.

Heys covered the integration of the Southeastern Conference as a reporter in the 1970s and became curious about Harris’s life when he first saw him play basketball in 1969.

“It’s an honor to be included in the Auburn Family Friday Speaker Series and be able to share Henry Harris’s story of commitment on the campus where his impact can still be felt,” said Heys. “This is the 50th anniversary of his first varsity basketball season so it’s a great time to be discussing his legacy and the sacrifices he made for Auburn and for future students.”

Heys said he was inspired by Harris’s grace and power in the face of racial comments made by front-row fans and later wrote the book “Remember Henry Harris: Lost Icon of a Revolution: A Story of Hope and Self Sacrifice in America.”

Heys has authored or co-authored three nonfiction books including the well-known book “The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America’s Deadliest Hotel Fire.” After Heys and co-author Allen Goodwin did some investigative reporting, they were able to tell the story of the 119 victims of the arson hotel fire in the book. 

Heys is a licensed mental health counselor, and he holds master’s and specialist degrees in counseling from Georgia State University. He also co-authored “Big Bets: Decisions and Leaders That Shaped Southern Company with Dub Taft” and received runner-up recognition in the history category in the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Awards.

For more information on this event and the other speakers in the series, go to http://ocm.auburn.edu/speaker_series/.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.