ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Former Associated Press correspondent Elliott Minor, who for more than two decades covered Georgia stories from peanut farming to executions, has died at age 71, his family said Friday.
Minor's daughter, Evelyn Minor, said her father died Thursday at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany of complications from pancreatic cancer.
"I think he was very proud of his career," she said. "He loved writing the agricultural stories and feeling like he was helping the farmers. He loved meeting people and asking people questions even when he wasn't working."
Minor joined the AP in Philadelphia on April 23, 1973. He transferred in May 1984 to south Georgia, where he worked as AP's correspondent in Albany until he retired in May 2007. Minor specialized in writing about farming, from peanuts and cotton to peaches and Vidalia onions. He also became the AP's go-to reporter for eyewitness coverage of executions in Georgia. By the time he retired, Minor had witnessed 13 inmates put to death, including the state's first execution by injection in 2001.
Minor also had a knack for finding irresistibly offbeat stories along the back roads and small towns of rural Georgia. He wrote about a bail bondsman who hunted fugitives with the help of a 6-foot python and made national headlines with the story of a monstrous half-ton wild pig with 9-inch tusks known as Hogzilla.
"He taught all of his readers so much about agriculture, the military and the environment, and south Georgia history," said Michael Giarrusso, AP Bureau Chief for Arizona and New Mexico, who worked closely with Minor for six years as AP news editor in Atlanta. "If it was a subject he was less familiar with, he approached it as a chance to learn. He interviewed everyone from President Carter to small children with the same curiosity and respect, and filled up his notebook and recorder with new facts and quotes."
In addition to his work for AP, Minor found another use for his reporting skills in the mid-1980s when he enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard and served part-time as a military journalist for the Atlanta-based 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
As a citizen-soldier, Minor deployed to the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., during the 1991 Gulf War. He also deployed overseas in 1997 to Bosnia, where Minor wrote stories about Georgia guardsmen serving as international peacekeepers for military newspapers and other National Guard publications.
In the years he worked for AP and served in the military, Minor managed to juggle both jobs without conflict, said retired Army Lt. Col. Jim Driscoll, who was Minor's commanding officer in the National Guard.
"It's a delicate balance because, while what you're doing is sort of the same thing, the purposes are very different," Driscoll said. "He was sort of able to keep that separation between his civilian job and his military job. He kept those lines very clear."
Driscoll recalled speaking for the National Guard at a press conference in south Georgia. Minor, who was there covering a story for AP, didn't hesitate to press him with a tough question.
"He said, 'Col. Driscoll, these numbers don't add up. What aren't you telling me?'" Driscoll said. "Whatever Elliott was doing, he took that job very, very seriously."
Both Minor's colleagues in the military and in the AP knew him to be a man with eclectic interests. Before starting his journalism career, Minor played trombone in the Army as a military bandsman while serving on active-duty in Germany. Years later, he continued to play music with community groups in Albany.
Minor also had a strong interest in Buddhism and brewed his own beer.
"He was one of the most friendly and sincere people you would ever meet," Giarrusso said. "Journalists, government officials and regular people all over South Georgia loved hearing from him."
Minor is survived by his wife, Hildegard Minor, his daughter, three sons and seven grandchildren. A memorial service is planned Sunday afternoon at Mathews Funeral Home in Albany.