Archive for the 'February Mission' Category

NewSouth Author James N. Harrell Dies in Tampa, Florida

Friday, July 13th, 2007 by Randall Williams

Jim Harrell, 83, author of the civil war novel, Their Last Ten Miles, and February Mission, a collection of poems and plays, died July 7 at his home in Tampa, Florida. He had been battling cancer for the past two years.

Jim was a native of Thomaston, Alabama, but had lived all over the world during his long and productive life. In World War II, he was a crewman on B-17 bombers and flew 28 missions over Germany, including one over Dresden that he recalled later in his signature poem, “February Mission.” After the war Jim studied at the University of California at Berkeley and the Sorbonne. He lived in Hong Kong while working for an airline with routes in the Far East, and later in New York, London, Tahiti, and San Francisco while working in the hotel industry. Still later, he joined his brother Stan in a company providing pharmaceutical management services.

Though he achieved great success as a businessman, Jim’s heart was always with literature and writing. He wrote numerous poems, plays, and a novel. He attributed his love for writing to the encouragement he had been given by a high school teacher in rural Alabama. That teacher showed him that he could not only enjoy reading poems, he could write them himself. And he did, until near the end of his life when his final illness overtook him.

Two years ago, in honor of his long-ago teacher, Jim endowed the James Harrell Poetry Prize for Alabama high school students, and he donated copies of his last two books and a collection of poems by Alabama poets laureate to every high school library in Alabama.
Jim was a generous and compassionate man who had a poet’s sensibilities and powers of description. He will be missed.

World War II Veteran Jim Harrell Honored on Memorial Day by Alvin Benn

Monday, June 4th, 2007 by Lyndsey

February Mission has been reviewed by Alvin Benn of The Montgomery Advertiser, who calls author Jim Harrell a brave Alabamian who took part in one of the deadliest bombing missions of World War II.”

February Mission is the stunning collection of poems and plays that revolve around the life experiences of author and poet Jim Harrell. The poem for which the book is titled vividly portrays the bombing of Dresden, a mission Harrell will never forget. Throughout Harrell’s life, he has used poetry and writing as an outlet for the memories of his past.

Jim is adament about sharing his talents with others and urging young people to write as well. Benn praises Harrell for his generous donation to Alabama schools and his ardent promotion of literacy through reading, stating that he has donated more than 1,000 books so far” through his book donation program, and also sponsored the James Harrell Poetry Scholarship Award. Hes been giving copies of his latest book to libraries across the state, along with a book about the final days of the Civil War and an anthology of verse by Alabama’s poet laureates.”

From the article:

Harrell was a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress during the raid and writes about it in [the poem] “February Mission.”

It’s not long and it’s in verse form, but it’s apparent the mission became a seminal moment in the life of a man who has used poetry to express himself since his school days in the little Marengo County community of Thomaston.

Published by NewSouth Books, February Mission contains a collection of poems and plays written by Harrell, who, in the past few months, has endeared himself to students and teachers across Alabama.

Cancer slowly is killing him, but his mind remains clear and positive even if his body is fading. He says his doctors give him about a year to live.

Poetry has a lot to do with keeping Harrell active. It has carried him through more than a few rough spots during his 83 years and it’s helping him now as his time begins to wane.

His poems contain personal reflections, his views on life, growing up in Alabama and much more, but it’s a day in February 1945 that became the cornerstone of his work.

Read the full article in The Montgomery Advertiser.

February Mission is available now from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online or local book retailers.