Harry E. Minetree, Journalist, Filmmaker

April 7, 1935 - Sept. 17, 2018
Harry E. Minetree,  April 7, 1935 - Sept. 17, 2018

Harry Eugene Minetree, a college professor, journalist, and writer of magazine articles and documentary films, some of which he produced, died on Sept. 17 in an assisted living facility in Glendale, Calif. He was 83 and had been in poor health for about a year.

Mr. Minetree and his wife, the former Judith Ann Garner, had eloped when they were very young, marrying in Corinth, Miss., on Nov. 13, 1955. They settled in East Hampton in 1972 and lived here for more than 20 years.

He was born on April 7, 1935, in Poplar Bluff, Mo., one of three sons of the former Ruth Esther and Richard Herbert Minetree. He attended public school there and Vanderbilt University, from which he graduated in 1959 with a B.A. in English. He attended summer school at Harvard in 1958. While at Vanderbilt, Mr. Minetree wrote for the Hustler newspaper, was an announcer on WVU, editor of a humor magazine, and a member of the Student Christian Association as well as Phi Delta Theta. In 1962, he received a master of fine arts in English and creative writing at the University of Iowa, where he was an Industries Scholar and teaching assistant. He then taught at Columbia College, Memphis State University, Syracuse University, and Lindenwood College, and was a guest lecturer at the University of London. 

Mr. and Mrs. Minetree lived in a number of places, including Poplar Bluff, Columbia, Mo., Memphis, St. Louis, and Bodmin in Cornwall, England. They had six children. Upon returning from Cornwall in 1972, the couple moved to East Hampton, where they lived until 1994, when they separated. Mr. Minetree moved away while his wife stayed in East Hampton until 2014, when she moved to California.

His book “Cooley: The Career of a Great Heart Surgeon,” about a surgeon who had operated on Mr. Minetree when he was a young man, was published in 1973, and translated into Spanish and German. Dr. Cooley also was the subject of one of Mr. Minetree’s PBS “Most Endangered Species” documentaries. Another was about George Adamson, a British wildlife conservationist and writer. John Huston narrated both.

A third documentary, “A Reporter in Grenada,” which he wrote, produced, and directed, was about the restrictions imposed on the media by the Pentagon during the invasion of Grenada, which Mr. Minetree called “the first U.S. military operation in which the press was neither advised nor included.” Featured at the International Conference on Broadcasting in Marseille, France, in 1985, the film was narrated by Jason Robards and included Mike Wallace of CBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC, and Ramsey Clark, a former United States attorney general. The three films were aired on BBC in England, in South Africa, the Philippines, Greece, and New Zealand, among other countries.

After 1973, Mr. Minetree concentrated on journalism, earning citations from the Overseas Press Club for excellence in foreign reporting. His articles appeared in Time, The New York Times, and Hearst magazines. He also wrote short stories, which appeared in the Arlington Quarterly, Delta Quarterly, and the Kenyon Review, as well as in anthologies such as “Southern Writing in the Sixties” and “Missouri Writers.” A film, “Staggerwing,” which Mr. Minetree wrote in 1989, and which was to be directed by Hal Holbrook, a neighbor at one time in Amagansett, was never made.

Mr. Minetree was a member of several press clubs and conservation organizations. He was on the board of the Sleeping Elephant Trust and Androcoles America, as well as LTV, the public access television station here, and a member of the Society of the Cincinatti, the country’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783. He had been an Eagle Scout in his youth.

Mr. Minetree’s former wife, who lives in Silver Lake, Calif., survives, as do his children, Harry Minetree II, Hugh Quentin Minetree, and Judith McVey, all of Silver Lake, Elizabeth Ann Minetree of Van Nuys, Calif., Lee Vernon Minetree of Wainscott, and Garner Jay Minetree of Amagansett. A brother, Dr. Thomas Minetree of Florence, Ala., and four grandchildren also survive. Another brother, Richard H. Minetree Jr. of Poplar Bluff, died in 2007.

There was no service. Mr. Minetree was cremated; his children plan to disperse his ashes in Poplar Bluff.