Sept. 9, 1927 – March 30, 2022
By Janice Carter Levitch Humphrey
As publisher of The VOICE-TRIBUNE, it is only fitting that I personally write a tribute to one of the most charming and endearing notable persons in our community. Someone who never seemed to meet a stranger and always took the time to engage in the most entertaining conversation. When our Editor in Chief, Alexandra Hepfinger, discussed this tribute with me, all I wanted to do was include John Harralson’s obituary. She said that wasn’t good enough and that I had to be the one to write something meaningful about him. Then I realized my hesitation wasn’t that I didn’t want to write the tribute. Thinking about all the events Harralson had covered over the years was mind-boggling. I realized I didn’t want to admit an iconic individual in our community had passed.
My first encounter with him happened years ago while I was attending a fundraiser known as “Hardscuffle.” He came up to me and introduced himself, and politely asked if he could snap a photo of me with the friends I was with. Of course, I was immediately enamored with his wit and ease of character. He gave me his business card, and the following week I trotted over to his office that was located in the heart of St. Matthews, to ask about the photos. Once I arrived, he was able to show me a black and white contact sheet of the images he had taken at the Hardscuffle event. They were fabulous, and I felt like a movie star as I gazed at the black and white contact sheet he had printed in his darkroom. You see, at the time, all his photos were on film. I placed an order for several 5×7 prints, and he said to come back in about a week to pick them up because he would print them in his darkroom, which took a little time. You can imagine how special those black and white prints are to me, knowing he personally printed them.
Harralson purchased the name and assets of The New Voice in April 1987. He wanted to run a publication with a sharp focus on community news, including extensive coverage of social events – a paper like the one his mother had worked for in Central City, Kentucky. Harralson beefed-up sports coverage, added a social columnist and increased the number of photos. In fact, there were so many photos that “some of the reporters complained that I was trying to turn it into Life magazine,” Harralson said in the 2017 interview with Thomas Pack for The VOICE-TRIBUNE. He became an icon of the Louisville social scene by photographing dignitaries and guests at sporting events, galas and business openings. John would be present in his tuxedo, camera in hand and surrounded by people hoping to appear in the next issue at any important event. When the publication sold, John continued working as a photographer well beyond his 90th birthday.
On the seventh anniversary of Harralson’s ownership, the publication was renamed The VOICE-TRIBUNE because Harralson wanted to give it a more traditional name. Under Harralson’s direction, it grew to become Kentucky’s largest paid weekly. As the current steward of this publication and someone who admires Harralson’s accomplishments, a decision has been made to steer this publication onward and upward by returning to our roots, The VOICE-TRIBUNE. Over the years, there have been many iterations of our name, The New Voice, The Voice-Tribune, The VOICE of Louisville, VOICE of Louisville and finally, VOICE Louisville. Over the months ahead, you will notice our ad campaign ‘Back to our Roots’ being released. This is our way of honoring Harralson’s legacy and leadership during his tenure as publisher.
John is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sarann Salsburg Harralson and four sons, John Henry Harralson, III, Dr. Thomas Giles Harralson, James Kincheloe Harralson and Benjamin Simpson Harralson. Also survived by three grandchildren, John Henry Harralson, IV and Hayden Proctor Harralson, the sons of John III and Cynthia Reid Harralson and Benjamin Webb Harralson, the son of Benjamin and Stacey Miller Harralson.
Godspeed, Mr. Harralson. I am one of many folks in this community who was honored to know you.