By Lisa Meskimen, Emmie Poth-Nebel and Amber Mak
Children in his hometown weren’t traditionally educated, and yet they often grew up to run “multi-million dollar” businesses: the family farm.
As a child, Mark Harris lived on a farm in Taylor County, Georgia. Unlike many of his peers, he went to college.
“The stereotype of the rural farmer with overalls and straw hat and straw in his mouth to some extent is true, but that guy might have a master’s degree,” he said.
Harris went on to teach Advanced Placement government classes at high schools in rural Georgia for over 20 years.
“My wife suggested that I do something to make a living, so I started teaching and farming on the side, and I think they missed the humor in that,” Harris said. He still lives in Taylor county, but now works at a pawn shop in Macon.
Harris believes prioritizing family is a “wonderful quality” of the South.
“I grew up living on a farm with four or five generations before me,” he said. “My daddy — that’s what we call our fathers down here — built a house on our farm for his parents to live in.”
When it comes to misconceptions about the South, Harris’ southern drawl falls on the list.
“[Non-southerners] hear us and they don’t take into consideration that we’re coming from a position, not of ignorance, but from [the Old South],” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re dumb.”
Even though people stereotype southern accents, Harris wouldn’t change his dialect because “it’s a part of me,” he said.
“I have to admit that when I call someone from a Northern state and they comment on my Southern drawl, I lay it on big,” he said. “I really start dragging it out.”
Harris strives to change misconceptions that people have about the South.
“Some of the worst facets are residual carryovers from the Old South,” he said. “I’d like to save the best part of [the South] and do away with the worst part of it.”