Jim Harper is a writer, editor, educator and community activist. Most recently he developed a chain of free tutoring programs for low-income children in Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties.
His gay activism began in the early 1990s when, as a long-time reporter and columnist at the St. Petersburg Times, he was among the first mainstream journalists in the U.S. to write openly as a gay man. He served on the board of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and at the Times, helped to pioneer a more open, community-based coverage of LGBT issues. He also covered politics, education, music, and cultural issues. In 1997 he was part of a reporting/editing team that was runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize, for its coverage of a police shooting and racial violence in St. Petersburg.
Jim was founding president of Friends of the Festival Inc., the non-profit entity that produces the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Festival. He also was board chair of the Tampa Gay and Lesbian Community Center and helped negotiate its successful merger with Tampa Bay’s Metropolitan Charities. For more than a decade, he has participated in a student mentoring program at his undergraduate alma mater, The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn. He joined Equality Florida’s board of directors in 2007, where he has focused on strategic planning, fundraising and governance. He lives with his dog Booker in Tampa.