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.
The 2019-2020 academic year is the 50th anniversary of integration of Auburn University athletics, and Heys will discuss the life of the second black basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, Henry Harris, who came to Auburn in 1968 as the first African American on athletic scholarship. Harris was also the first black scholarship athlete in a major sport at any of the SEC’s seven members in the Deep South then.
“That year, Auburn essentially became the leader in moving toward equality and justice in the Deep South,” Heys said. “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 is author of Remember Henry Harris: Lost Icon of a Revolution: A Story of Hope and Self-Sacrifice in America, which was published in mid-September. He covered the integration of the SEC as a reporter in the 1970s.
“It’s an honor to 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 has authored or co-authored four nonfiction books, including the The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America’s Deadliest Hotel Fire. He also co-authored Big Bets: Decisions and Leaders That Shaped Southern Company, which received runner-up recognition in the history category in the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Awards.
Heys is a licensed mental health counselor and holds master’s and specialist degrees in counseling from Georgia State University.