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

Panel hears oral arguments over Alabama's law banning gender-affirming care

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A river gauge marks near record low water levels on the Mississippi River at New Orleans. It's many feet lower than it typically would be and it's creating all sorts of problems. L. Kasimu Harris for NPR hide caption

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L. Kasimu Harris for NPR

Saltwater is moving up the Mississippi River. Here's what's being done to stop it

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Cliff Coddington inspects a young orange tree that's been uprooted by Hurricane Ian on a ranch he runs in Sarasota County, Fla. Saul Martinez for NPR hide caption

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Saul Martinez for NPR

Florida agriculture has been slammed by Hurricane Ian

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Ricaltini's Restaurant damaged by Hurricane Ian in Englewood, Fla. on October 6, 2022. Saul Martinez/for NPR hide caption

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More than a week after Hurricane Ian, the shock of what's ahead settles in for people

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How Little Gasparilla Island is recovering after Hurricane Ian

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Alva Sulaty points to the damage in her home in North Port, Fla., on Wednesday, after Hurricane Ian flooded her neighborhood. Carlos Osorio for NPR hide caption

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North Port residents start sorting through the wreckage of Hurricane Ian

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Biden tours devastation from Hurricane Ian and promises Florida federal help

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Jackson residents struggling for clean water decry decades of disinvestment

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Residents of Jackson, Miss., remain fearful of drinking water after boil notice's end

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Lisa McNair holds her memoir Dear Denise: Letters to the Sister I Never Knew, recounting growing up in Birmingham, Ala., after her sister Denise and three other Black girls were murdered in the Ku Klux Klan bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. Taylor Jennings-Brown/NPR hide caption

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Her sister was killed in the Birmingham church bombing. A new book tells their story

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Books We Love: Recommended reading for nonfiction

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Charlottesville activist Don Gathers reflects on five years since white supremacists terrorized his hometown — "all the hatefulness and evilness that transpired here." Eze Amos for NPR hide caption

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The Charlottesville rally 5 years later: 'It's what you're still trying to forget'

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Charlottesville plans to melt Robert E. Lee statue to create public art installation

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Charlottesville was a wake-up call for many about the white supremacy movement

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