Dr. Russ Harris and Joe Palmer have been chosen as the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor recipients for 2011. The Roll of Honor was initiated in 2010 in memory of Hirsch, the legendary Daily Racing Form columnist who died in 2009.
Dr. Harris began his journalism career at the Canton Repository in Ohio following service in World War II and became involved in turf writing and handicapping in 1957 at the Akron Beacon Journal. He also worked for the Miami Herald, Daily Racing Form, Philadephia Inquirer and New York Daily News. He also served as a steward at the Chicago area tracks of Hawthorne, Arlington, and Washington Park.
Harris was also a teacher and earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh University in 1999 at age 75. Harris is also a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee and Historic Review Committee. He resides in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
A Lexington native, Palmer graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1927 and taught English composition and literature at UK from 1928 to 1932, and at the University of Michigan from 1932 to 1934, where he pursued a Ph.D. in contemporary literature.
After being hired as an associate editor at The Blood-Horse magazine in the summer of 1934, Palmer did not return to the University of Michigan although he was only a thesis short of his Ph.D. Palmer wrote the 1939 book “Names in Pedigrees,” and was responsible for most of the content in “Horses in the Blue Grass” and “The Thoroughbred Horses.”
In addition, he authored the annual “American Race Horses” in 1944, 1945, and 1946. In 1946, he became the racing writer for the New York Herald Tribune, where he wrote the popular column, “Views of the Turf” was syndicated and published by numerous other publications throughout the country. He also worked for the Columbia Broadcasting System as a radio racing announcer.
Following Palmer’s death due to a heart attack in 1952 at age 48, the New York Racing Association named the Joe Palmer Handicap and later the Joe Palmer Stakes in his honor. In 1953, a collection of his columns was published in the book “This Was Racing,” which was reprinted again in 1973.
The National Museum of Racing will present crystal plaques for the Hirsch winners in separate ceremonies; Palmer’s award to be accepted by his son, Stephen Palmer.
The National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor was established to recognize individuals whose careers have been dedicated to, or substantially involved in, writing about Thoroughbred racing (non-fiction), and who distinguished themselves as journalists.