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One famous visitor didn't have a ticket

Posted: April 9, 2013 - 11:04pm

This week the eyes of the world are on the Augusta National Golf Club, where our favorite local golf tournament is played this week.

People-watching is almost as big as golf, and celebrity sightings are a premium as the rich and famous come from all over to check out The Masters.

But I was reminded this week of one of the more famous people to visit the Augusta National, a Columbia County resident who made an unscheduled visit 30 years ago.

That event defined what most people knew about Charlie Harris. But when Harris died in 2007, it was pretty clear he hadn’t let that event define who he was.

It was on Oct. 22, 1983, that Harris rammed his 1974 Dodge pickup through the gates of the Augusta National and held several people hostage at gunpoint in the clubhouse in hopes of talking to a man playing golf that day: then-President Ronald Reagan.

Harris, who’d been drinking, wanted to complain about having lost his job, which he blamed on uncontrolled immigration and foreign laborers (boy, does that sound familiar).

To no one’s surprise, Harris never got the chance to talk to the president; Augusta Chronicle photographers snapped a dramatic photo of Reagan being whisked from the scene in his limo, with Uzi-brandishing Secret Service agents hanging off the vehicle.

At least no one was hurt. Harris was arrested, tried and convicted. He went to prison, and like many others, found God there. Unlike most others, however, he didn’t lose that relationship with God after his release, and that more than anything else defined his life after the infamous gate-crashing episode.

For years after his release, Harris used the same truck that crashed the gates of the National to haul a lawn mower to Dunn’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Leah each week to cut the grass. He also used it to carry him and others to church services.

With his life having taken such dramatic turns, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting passing for a Southern gentleman: After an Independence Day barbecue on July 4, 2007, Charlie Harris sat down in his easy chair, took a nap in front of the television and never woke up.

Here’s what I wrote after his death:

“His family and friends are confident that when the end came, Charlie Harris didn’t have to crash the Pearly Gates. They opened wide for the man who drove into the depths of his own despair and found hope that he shared with others.”

As his daughter, Charlene Fulcher, told me at the time: “In the end, he made a difference where it mattered: In his own life.”

Thankfully, most visitors this week to The Augusta National won’t make as dramatic an entrance as Charlie Harris. But I doubt they’ll make as graceful an exit, either.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/

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Comments (7)


When the drunk lady drove

When the drunk lady drove through the gate the other day I was reminded of him.

Barry Paschal

Yep, that's what got me started

A thread of comments on Facebook from a link to that story is what got me started when a friend asked about Harris. I looked up my old column on the topic and was surprised to learn this October will be 30 years since that incident.


One life at a time, changed forever

God does work in mysterious ways to bring about His Will in the lives of those that listen. The "power of redemption" is as strong as ever. We are told that the angels in heaven rejoice over one soul that is saved.

Lamya Dalton

What happened to Charlie

What happened to Charlie Harris is a lesson for all of us, too bad his life had to end in such a dramatic way. Augusta National Golf Club is a special place for the ones that prefer a nice and neat game of golf instead of other sports. A place as special as this one is represented by Palm Springs golf homes a great golf program for residents. Anyway, this is a great article, Charlie Harris is a national symbol.

Lamya Dalton

Golf is one of those sports

Golf is one of those sports that many people enjoy playing because it has something that reminds them about royalty. The Augusta Golf tournament is one of the most impressive tournaments out there and it is suited for everyone, from children to parents and if you are passionate about the golf accessories too, you can search for the EZ GO golf cart parts.

Lamya Dalton

The Augusta National Golf

The Augusta National Golf Club has attracted a number of celebrities and many remember Charlie Harris' unexpected visit to 1983's tournament. After being trialed and sentenced for his actions, Charlie redeemed himself by turning to God, and moving on to custom club fitting he started working for various golf courses. The same truck he crashed into the gates of the National 32 years ago, he used to haul a lawn mower to churches making a difference by mowing lawns.