- Deep South Dispatch: Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist with Anne Rosen Farris (2018)
- The New Heartland (1986)
- No Thank you, Mr. President (1976)
- The Black Dilemma (1973)
- The Lost Priority: What Happened to the Civil Rights Movement in America? (1970)
Journalist and author John Norton Herbers was born in Tennessee on November 4, 1923. His family moved in and out of both Mississippi and Tennessee many times over the years. Over the years, his father worked as a manager of several small country stores and his mother taught music part-time.
Herbers graduated from Brownsville High School in Tennessee in 1941. Shortly after graduating, he served as a combat infantryman in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he attended Emory University in Georgia, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
He began working as a reporter for the Morning Star of Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1949. In 1951, he started to work for the Jackson Daily News in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1952, Herbers married Mary Elizabeth Wood.
While working at the Jackson Daily News, he covered the trial and execution of Willie McGee, an African-American truck driver charged with raping a white housewife who was convicted by an all-white jury in just a few minutes. This reporting garnered his work national attention, resulting in a job with United Press in Jackson, MS in 1953.
In 1960 to 1961, Herbers studied American history at Harvard University on a Nieman fellowship. He moved to Washington in 1962 to cover the Labor and Justice Departments for United Press International.
In 1963, Herbers was hired by the New York Times to be an Atlanta correspondent covering Civil Rights demonstrations. During his tenure with the Times, he wrote about the murders of the four Civil Rights workers in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shortly before his death, and covered the deaths of the four children in the bombing of a Baptist Church in Birmingham.
In 1965, Herbers was reassigned to Washington, D.C. to cover the presidential campaigns of 1966 and Congress. He wrote about the 1968 Democratic Convention and the anti-war protesters. In 1969, he was named Urban Affairs National Correspondent and covered many anti-Vietnam War protests, city riots, and college campus protests.
Herbers changed roles several more times during his tenure with The New York Times. In 1975, he was named Assistant National Editor at The New York Times in New York; then he was named Deputy Washington Bureau Chief in 1976; and finally, in 1978, he was named National Washington Correspondent. He retired from the Times in 1987.
After retiring from journalism, Herbers served as visiting professor at Princeton University and the University of Maryland. He taught about politics and journalism.
Governing magazine was founded in 1987, with the first issue featuring an article by John Herbers, who served as a columnist for the next three years.
During his career, Herbers spent many years covering the civil rights movement in the South, anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, and national politics. His work covered the murder of 14-year-old Emmitt Till in Missisippi, the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the Watergate Scandal, and much more.
In 2000, Herbers was awarded the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism for his work at The New York Times (1963-1987).
With the help of his daughter, Anne Farris Rosen, he wrote a memoir about his time as a journalist in the south during the civil rights movement, entitled “Deep South Dispatch: Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist.”
Herbers died on March 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. He is survived by four daughters – Anne Farris Rosen, Claudia Slate, Mary Herbers, and Jill Herbers.
- Covering the stories of the civil rights movement: Book Review by John Greenya; April 25, 2018. The Washington Times.
- ‘Deep South Dispatch’ Review: Witness to the Persecution – by Joseph Crespino. July 10, 2018. The Wall Street Journal.
- Civil Rights Reporter’s Memoir is Candid, Critical – by Emily Sullivan. April 11, 2018. The Emory Wheel.
- Emory magazine tribute: John Herbers 49C
- John Herbers, Who Vividly Covered the Civil Rights Era for The Times, Dies at 93. The New York Times. March 18, 2017 by Robert D. McFadden.
- Pioneering Civil Rights Reporter, Emory Alumnus Dies. The Emory Wheel. March 29, 2017. by Emily Sullivan.