Debbie Elliott NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South and occasionally guest-hosting NPR news programs.
Stories By

Debbie Elliott

Allison Shelley/NPR
Debbie Elliott at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)
Allison Shelley/NPR

Debbie Elliott

Correspondent, National Desk

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South and occasionally guest-hosting NPR news programs. 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 – tornadoes, floods, and major hurricanes including Andrew, Katrina, and Harvey. She reported on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, introducing NPR listeners to teenage boys orphaned in the disaster who were struggling to survive on their own.

She spent months exclusively reporting on 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. Her series "The Disappearing Coast" examined Louisiana's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the disaster'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 deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the mass murder of worshippers at a rural Texas church. She was part of the NPR team covering the impact of the mass shootings at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

A particular focus for Elliott is exploring how Americans live through the prism of race, culture, and history. 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.

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

In 2018, she won a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award for a radio feature about Mississippi confronting its past with a new civil rights museum.

Elliott has followed national debates over immigration, healthcare, abortion, tobacco, voting rights, religious freedom, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, Confederate monuments, criminal justice, and policing in America. She reported on the tense aftermath of the Alton Sterling killing in Baton Rouge, when three law enforcement officers were killed in an ambush. She examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, a shortage of public defenders in Louisiana, the incarceration of girls in Florida, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup.

Elliott has profiled key figures in politics and the arts, including historian John Hope Franklin, children's book author Eric Carle, musician Trombone Shorty, and former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. She covered the funerals of the King of the Blues, BB King, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Her stories give a taste of southern culture, from the Nashville hot chicken craze to the traditions of Mardi Gras, and the roots of American music at Mississippi's new Grammy Museum. She's highlighted little-known treasures such as 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. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Elliott is a former host of NPR's All Things Considered on the Weekends, and a former Capitol Hill correspondent. She's covered Congressional and Presidential elections for nearly three decades.

Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and graduated from the University of Alabama. Prior to joining NPR, she worked in commercial and public radio in Alabama. Elliott lives in south Alabama with her husband, two children, and a pet beagle.

[+] read more[-] less

Story Archive

Alabama prison commissioner Jeff Dunn says the Department of Corrections is implementing some federal recommendations and taking measures to improve, including the creation of an inspector general and a corruption task force, and hiring a new deputy commissioner. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Debbie Elliott/NPR

Alabama Faces Deadline To Address Dangerous And Deadly Prison Conditions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/725066218/725066995" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Justice Department Forces Alabama To Address Deadly Prison Conditions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/724921403/724921404" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a ban on nearly all abortions. Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor's Office via AP hide caption

toggle caption
Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor's Office via AP

Alabama Governor Signs Abortion Ban Into Law

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/723312937/723497630" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Alabama Lawmakers Debate Bill To Ban Nearly All Abortions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/723325916/723325917" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Kyle Kessler holds a pressing of Fiddlin' John Carson's "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane," which was recorded at 152 Nassau Street in Atlanta. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Debbie Elliott/NPR

The Birthplace Of Country Music's First Hit Is Being Threatened By Modern Construction

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/720062310/720222034" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A sweeping abortion bill passed the Alabama state House Tuesday and is expected to win final passage in the Republican-majority Senate. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Alabama Lawmakers Move To Outlaw Abortion In Challenge To Roe v. Wade

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/719096129/719157997" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Karen Baynes-Dunning is the interim director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

After Allegations Of Toxic Culture, Southern Poverty Law Center Tries To Move Forward

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/713887174/714213047" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Alabama's Prison Are Unsafe And Unconstitutional, Justice Department Says

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/709574103/709574104" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Prisoners stand in a crowded lunch line during a prison tour at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. A Department of Justice report finds violence in Alabama's overcrowded prisons is 'cruel' and 'pervasive.' Brynn Anderson/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Brynn Anderson/AP

Justice Dept. Finds Violence In Alabama Prisons 'Common, Cruel, Pervasive'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/709475746/710466454" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Deadly violence from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., shook the nation in 2017. Since then, city leaders have struggled to define what public discourse should look like as once-marginalized voices increase demands for change. Justin T. Gellerson for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Justin T. Gellerson for NPR

'Hear Me By Any Means Necessary': Charlottesville Is Forced To Redefine Civility

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/704902802/705021504" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Keitra Bates (left) moved to tears upon meeting 106-year old Leila Williams at her nursing home. Bates recently discovered that Williams once ran Leila's Dinette in the building where Bates now runs Marddy's Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. Charlotte Riley-Webb for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Charlotte Riley-Webb for NPR

'Welcome To Marrdy's' - A Shared Kitchen For Local Cooks In Gentrifying West Atlanta

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/702663162/703912142" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Wide-mouthed blackface figures of Uncle Tom and postcards of eating watermelon perpetuated negative stereotypes about African-Americans. The minstrel caricatures showed up on toys, games, books, postcards and everyday household items. Olivia Sun/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Olivia Sun/NPR

Virginia Scandals Draw Attention To The Dehumanizing History Of Blackface

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/692823582/692823583" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands at the center of Lee Circle along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. The commonwealth of Virginia has a complicated racial history that underpins many of today's political controversies. Salwan Georges/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Salwan Georges/Getty Images

A Look Back At Virginia's Racial Past In Context Of The Today's Turmoil

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/692115832/692115895" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript