Longtime South Carolina journalist John Shurr dies

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2015 11:47 AM
Longtime South Carolina journalist John Shurr dies

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — John Shurr, a longtime journalist and open government advocate who was The Associated Press' bureau chief in South Carolina for 20 years, has died. He was 67.

Shurr died at his home Sunday morning, said Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, and a longtime friend.

Shurr played the key role in bringing cameras and microphones inside South Carolina courts.

"We wouldn't have cameras in the courtroom without John Shurr, I don't believe," Rogers said.

Shurr was a longtime chairman of the South Carolina Press Association's Freedom of Information Committee.

In 1988, the state Supreme Court unanimously voted to refuse to allow cameras or tape recorders in courtrooms. But Shurr continued to set up meetings between judges, lawyers and journalists so they could talk about open government.

At the time, South Carolina was one of a handful of states that didn't allow journalists to have electronic equipment in courtrooms.

In 1992, largely due to Shurr's efforts, South Carolina courts began a six-month experiment allowing cameras in the courts. Today, having cameras in courtrooms is commonplace.

Jim Clarke, AP bureau chief for Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, worked for Shurr in Columbia in the 1990s.

"John was exactly what you want a bureau chief to be, passionate about freedom of information, passionate about quality journalism and passionate about the AP and its members," Clarke said.

Shurr was the creator and author of "A Public Official's Guide to the S.C. Freedom of Information." Tens of thousands of copies of the book have been distributed statewide to public officials and journalists.

He was part of the Cherokee tribe from his native Oklahoma. He enjoyed sailing and tennis.

Shurr retired from the AP in 2007. Funeral plans were not complete Monday morning.