GolinHarris former president Thomas Harris dies

Harris is credited with transforming the PR industry.

(L-R) Al Golin and Thomas Harris
(L-R) Al Golin and Thomas Harris

CHICAGO: Thomas Harris, the former president of GolinHarris, now known as Golin, died on Monday.

Harris' death comes almost a year since Al Golin, whose name made up half of the iconic IPG brand, also died. Golin was 87. Golin started what would become Golin Harris International in 1956 when he brought in business from McDonald's, a client that has become synonymous with the agency's legacy. Harris later became president of then-Golin Communications during the 1970s. The agency was rebranded to GolinHarris in 1981 to reflect his contributions.

Harris, who was also vice chairman and partner, retired from the IPG firm 25 years ago, while Golin continued to serve as chairman. GolinHarris later rebranded to Golin in 2014.

Harris led a career that stretched decades across the PR and advertising industry, according to a statement. He was named to PRWeek’s 100 Most Influential Public Relations People of the 20th Century.

Harris founded Foote, Cone & Belding Public Relations in 1973 and served as president. He also served as EVP at Edelman, and as VP of PR for Needham, Harper & Steers (now DDB), and North Advertising.

His work spanned advertising and PR, having handled campaigns for State Farm Insurance, 3M Company, MasterCard, Campbell Soup, Quaker Oats, Frito-Lay, Sara Lee, Kraft, S.C. Johnson, Maytag, and trade associations for the frozen food, canned food, and pet food industries.

As managing partner of Thomas L. Harris & Company, his clients included: Allstate Insurance, Gillette, P&G, Clorox, State Farm Insurance, Pillsbury, Lands’ End, Miller Brewing Company, United Stationers, CDW, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Wyndham International, Ameritech, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, and The City of Chicago.

The agency carried out the Thomas L. Harris/Impulse Research Public Relations Client Survey for 12 years.

But Harris’ body of work extended beyond the office: he was a prolific writer, and is credited with having started the first course in marketing public relations as adjunct professor at the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. He served in that capacity at the Chicago school in the master’s program in Integrated Marketing Communications for 14 years.

Harris owned one of the largest collections of jazz recordings in the U.S. The jazz records can now be found at his undergraduate alma mater, University of Michigan. The jazz CDs and books are now housed at the American Jazz Institute.

Harris is survived by sons Jim and Ted, spouses Lynn and Phillip, and grandchildren Zack and Allie.

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