Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics


Remembering Larry Speakes

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American Politics | Journalism Studies


The tribute to Speakes, moderated by Charles Overby, chairman of the center. Panelists include Curtis Wilkie, Scott Coopwood, Ed Meek Speakes spent his childhood in the Delta town of Merigold. After studying journalism at Ole Miss and working on the student newspaper, which was called The Mississippian in the years before it became a daily, Speakes returned to the Delta and a newspaper job in Cleveland. He became press secretary for Sen. James O. Eastland, moving to Washington in 1968 and later joined national Republican political staffs as a press aide. He was named assistant press secretary to President Gerald Ford in 1974. Following Reagan's election in 1980, Speakes was named deputy press secretary at the White House. Within three months of taking office, Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt and his press secretary, Jim Brady, was gravely injured. Speakes became the full-time spokesman for the White House and served in that role for several years, though he was never named press secretary out of deference to the disabled Brady. In 1987, Speakes was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by Reagan. After leaving the White House, Speakes wrote a memoir, "Speaking Out," and eventually moved back to the Mississippi Delta. He was 74 when he died on Jan. 10 after a long illness.

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