Debbie Elliott NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South.
Debbie Elliot
Stories By

Debbie Elliott

Christine Uter
Debbie Elliot
Christine Uter

Debbie Elliott

Correspondent, National Desk

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.

For more than two decades, Elliott has been one of NPR's top breaking news reporters. She's covered dozens of natural disasters – including hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Harvey. She reported on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, introducing NPR listeners to teenage boys orphaned in the disaster, struggling to survive on their own.

Elliott spent months covering the nation's worst man-made environmental disaster, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, documenting its lingering impact on Gulf coast communities and the complex legal battles that ensued. She launched the series "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the oil spill's lasting imprint on a fragile coastline.

She was honored with a 2018 Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation for crisis coverage, in part for her work covering the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the mass murder of worshippers at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. She was part of NPR's teams covering the mass shootings at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

Elliott has followed national debates over immigration, healthcare, abortion, tobacco, voting rights, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, Confederate monuments, criminal justice and policing in America. She examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, a shortage of public defenders in Louisiana, a rise in the incarceration of girls in Florida and chronic inhumane conditions at state prisons in Alabama and Mississippi.

A particular focus for Elliott has been exploring how Americans live through the prism of race, culture and history. Her coverage links lessons from the past to the movement for racial justice in America today.

She's looked at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, including the integration of Little Rock's Central High, the assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the Montgomery bus boycott and the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. She contributed a four-part series on the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, which earned a 2019 Gracie Award for documentary.

She was present for the re-opening of civil rights era murder cases, covering trials in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, the murder of Hattiesburg, Miss., NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer and the killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Miss.

Elliott has profiled key figures in politics and the arts, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, historian John Hope Franklin, Congressman John Lewis, children's book author Eric Carle, musician Trombone Shorty and former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. She covered the funerals of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, and the King of the Blues BB King, and she took listeners along for the second line jazz procession in memory of Fats Domino in New Orleans.

Her stories give a taste of southern culture, from the Nashville hot chicken craze to the traditions of Mardi Gras to the roots of American music at Mississippi's new Grammy Museum. She's highlighted little-known treasures such as North Carolina artist Freeman Vines and his hanging tree guitars, the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' Lower 9th ward, a remote Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama and the Cajun Christmas tradition of lighting bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River.

Elliott is a former host of NPR's newsmagazine All Things Considered on the weekends, and is a former Capitol Hill Correspondent. She's an occasional guest host of NPR's news programs and is a contributor to podcasts and live programming.

Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She lives in south Alabama with her husband, two children and a pet beagle.

Story Archive

Alabama judge considers whether to block new ban on gender-affirming care for youth

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1097261228/1097261229" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Doctors and parents of Alabama trans youth seek to block ban on gender-affirming care

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1096943956/1096943957" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Artist Branly Cadet's Arise sculpture at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., portrays community activists. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Debbie Elliott/NPR

A civil rights memorial in Alabama expands to document lynching victims' stories

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1093573398/1094047452" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Social justice groups' monuments are a counternarrative to Confederate memorials

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1093477473/1093477474" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A new book argues the U.S. South shapes the nation's political and cultural landscape

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991099/1088991100" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Saturday sports: Elite Eight begins; top player retires from women's tennis

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991092/1088998915" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The 'visible mending' trend of fixing clothes can be traced to a Japanese tradition

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991078/1088991079" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Taryn LaMaison (right) has worked with Brandon Waldrop, 21, for three years through the LifeSet program, which helps young people transition out of foster care and into adulthood. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Debbie Elliott/NPR

18 can mean an abrupt exit from foster care. For some, it's no longer a solo journey

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991071/1088991072" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A resident of Mariupol tells her story after fleeing the city's horrific destruction

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991050/1088991051" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Cowboy Junkies' new album recalls their start by returning to cover songs

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991043/1088991044" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

How long does it take to fall in love? New movie claims its 'Seven Days' in isolation

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991036/1088991037" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Immigrant Archive Project collects the stories of coming to call the U.S. home

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1088991022/1088991023" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A surfer takes the names of passed love ones out to sea for one last wave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1086330054/1086330055" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

What flight tracking data reveals about details of the Ukraine crisis

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1086330040/1086330041" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Saudi Arabia executes 81 people, the country's largest mass execution in modern times

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1086330033/1086330034" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript