PR Titan Harold Burson Dies at 98


The death today of Harold Burson marks the passing of a notable Memphian who was a pioneer in the field of public relations. More precisely, Burson, who was 98, parlayed a powerful intellectual curiosity and devotion to work that took him from a being a stringer for The Commercial Appeal while he attended Ole Miss to building and running the top PR firm in the world.

PRWeek, a public relations industry trade publication, named Burson as “the century’s most influential PR figure.” He was an entrepreneur, and counseled an array of CEOs, government leaders, and heads of public sector institutions. And he made the public relations business what it is today.

While he was Memphis born and a graduate of Humes High School and Ole Miss, he spent almost the entire rest of his life in New York, tending to his business. Only last year did he return to Memphis to stay with a niece. He still, however, went into work three days a week at the local office of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, the company that evolved from Burson-Marsteller that he founded with Bill Marsteller in 1953.

Memphis magazine ran a profile of Burson in its December issue that looked at the remarkable man and his singular achievements. Read the profile here.

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