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

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Story Archive

Former Presidents And Others Attend The Funeral For Rep. John Lewis

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Mourners Gather For For The Funeral Of Congressman John Lewis

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John Lewis, Sharecroppers' Son, Is Given A Heroes Sendoff In Alabama

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Late John Lewis' Final Trip Across The Edmund Pettus Bridge

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A fishing vessel plying the waters of Apalachicola Bay. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Florida Closes Iconic Apalachicola Oyster Fishery

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In November 2016, Congressman John Lewis viewed for the first time images and his arrest record from a March 5, 1963, nonviolent sit-in at Nashville's segregated lunch counters. Rick Diamond/Getty Images hide caption

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Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Never Gave Up Or Gave In

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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions Loses Alabama Runoff Election

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Jeff Sessions talks with the media after voting in Alabama's primary election in Mobile, Ala., on March 3. He faces Tommy Tuberville in Tuesday's Republican Senate runoff. Vasha Hunt/AP hide caption

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Sessions Fights For His Political Life As Trump Looms Over Alabama Senate Race

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Protest organizer DAntjuan Miller stands by the granite pedestal that remains of a monument to Confederate Navy Adm. Raphael Semmes in Mobile, Ala. "It's like a weight that's lifted off now that it's gone," he says. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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In Alabama, A City Debates How To Depict Its Past In The Present

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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves delivers a televised address prior to signing a bill retiring the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem, during a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday. The legislation passed both chambers of the Legislature on Sunday. Rogelio V. Solis/AP hide caption

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Mississippi's House And Senate Vote To Remove Confederate Insignia From State Flag

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While COVID-19 Stats Rise In Some States, Cases Drop In Others

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In this June 19, 2015, file photo, the men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. lead a crowd of people in prayer outside the Emanuel AME Church, after a memorial service for the nine people killed by Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C. Stephen B. Morton/AP hide caption

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5 Years After Charleston Church Massacre, What Have We Learned?

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Five Years After Charleston Church Shooting, America Reckons With Racial Injustice

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