Ole Miss alumnus Harold Burson, dubbed the “most influential PR person of the 20th century” by PRWeek, died this morning at the age of 98.
Burson, a Memphis native and a 1940 graduate of the university, was often described as the “Father of Public Relations,” and was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of 1980 after establishing the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm with Bill Marsteller in 1953.
Burson’s firm was hired in several high-profile cases, including Johnson & Johnson’s handling of poisoned Tylenol in 1982 and the British government’s response to an epidemic of mad cow disease.
“My father had many special qualities, but chief among them is one that stands out – he made us all better. In the coming days ahead, I look forward to sharing your stories and hearing your thoughts,” Burson’s son Mark Burson, an instructional assistant professor at the university, said in an email to fellow journalism school employees. “Please know that while I lost a father, to many of you, you lost a dear friend and colleague. I grieve for your loss and I stand ready to help and support you as you support me.”
There will be memorial services in New York City and at the university.