Harris Alexander (Alex) Coffin Jr.

April 20, 2023

CHAPEL HILL --- Harris Alexander (Alex) Coffin Jr., died peacefully surrounded by his family on April 20, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Sonia, of 52 years (they were married in 1971 in Madison, GA); son, Jon Coffin (Dawn) and their children, Lucy, Harris and Sally of Fort Mill, SC; daughter, Anna Hunter (Chris) and their children, Katie, Molly and Will of Chapel Hill, NC. He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Bill Bowen of Dalton, GA, and their family, Macie Hackney (Wes) and their children, Ginny and Mary Beth of Cartersville, GA; Will Bowen (Kathleen) and their children, William and Ollie of Decatur, GA; and his brother-in-law Ken Kulka (Linda) and their children, Krystal, Mandy and Jenna and grandchildren, Ava, Patrick, Paisley and Hadley, of Edmonton, Alberta.

In addition to his family, his greatest loves were his churches, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving others, reading, running, and his dogs over the years.  His family and friends enjoyed his humor, stories, and love of people, and learned from his beautiful example of integrity and service.

Coffin, son of Harris Alexander Coffin Sr. and Parinne Cranford Smith Coffin, was born in Asheboro, NC, on November 10, 1936, and graduated from Asheboro High School in 1955.  He was on Asheboro High School’s first golf and track teams and served as school yearbook and newspaper sports editor.

Coffin graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1959 with a degree in journalism. He ran cross-country and track in college, including competing in nine ACC championships, earning a place on the ACC All-Scholastic team.  He was an avid runner into his 70’s, running 46,000 miles over 50+ years, and competed in more than 725 races, including the 1979 Boston Marathon.

Coffin served in the Army from 1959-61 and worked as bureau chief of the Pacific Stars and Stripes in Seoul, Korea, and later served in the N.C. National Guard. He joined The Charlotte News in 1961 and covered education and city government until 1965 when he went to work for U.S. Rep. Charles R. Jonas in Washington for two years.  He then joined The Atlanta Constitution in 1967 and covered municipal government and the civil rights movement, including the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He was in King’s home with the family the night King was assassinated.  Coffin covered municipal government for The Province, a morning newspaper in Vancouver, B.C. from 1972-76 and moved back to Charlotte where he worked for Duke Power Company in its corporate communications department from 1976-1985.  He also served as moderator for a talk show on a WTVI news show.  In 1985, Coffin launched Coffin Associates, a full-service public relations firm. 

Coffin taught classes in public relations at Queens University, UNCC and CPCC for several years. He took post graduate courses from UNC-CH, UNCC, American University, Duke University and Emory University. He and Sonia gave lectures on movies and books on sea cruises for several years. Coffin authored Brookshire and Belk: Businessmen in City Hall, published by UNCC.

Coffin was an Eagle Scout, was active in Boy Scouting for many years, and served as a scoutmaster. He was a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. He received the McGlohon Award as the outstanding Boy Scout in Randolph County in 1951 and served as a Big Brother in Vancouver.  He cared deeply about those around him and serving in any community where he lived.

Service will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church (1000 East Morehead Street, Charlotte, NC 28204) on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at 1pm.  Please feel free to wear Carolina blue.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill cross-country, or an organization of your choice that serves those in need.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC; 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at www.kennethpoeservices.com

Share your memories & condolences


  • larry cobb


    I was shocked to see Alex's rose in the Cedars Clubhouse. While his death was tragic, the end was peaceful and the family was with him.

    Despite our best intentions, we didn't get to go to dinner or socialize as much as we had hoped since you moved into The Cedars. That's mostly my fault as old age sets in and health problems develop. I hope we will be able to visit as my problems improve.

    My condolences to your family.


  • Jerry Mitchell

    I had the pleasure of knowing Alex for more than 50 years. I first met Alex when I was a journalism student at Georgia State and our paths crossed through several jobs over the years. He was instrumental in helping many young journalists and PR professionals find jobs. He was always a gentleman and fun to be with (even though he managed to work Chapel Hill into most conversations). My sympathy is extended to Sonia and other members of the family.

  • Phil McCann

    I was lucky to run with Alex on many occasions during our stay in Charlotte from 1990 through 2006. M0st of these runs started at the Dowd Y or in the Greenway on Sunday mornings. During our runs, we conversed about many topics but most of the time it was about our families. I'm Canadian so we were able to relate on that. Alex always had numerous stories to share with us. I would feel remiss if I failed to relate a couple of Alex stories that come to mind. One of Alex's UNC teammates was Jim Beatty. Alex showed us a picture of he and Jim racing on the track with Alex on Jim's shoulder. But Alex was a lap behind Jim. The 2nd story happened about 20 years ago at the Greenway on a Sunday morning. Alex missed the start of the run but when we were finishing our run, here comes Alex running towards us. He was about 100 feet in front of us when he stopped, turned around and mooned us. We laughed to no end. It was an honor to call Alex a running buddy. RIP good buddy. Thoughts with Alex's family.

  • Sally and Eldon Senner

    Just the best. A man of values and principle. He was a wonderful listener and observer and, more importantly, he genuinely cared about and understood what he heard and observed. We will admit to having had an occasional divergence in views on the merits of shades of blue, but nonetheless deeply valued his charm and humor and the basic goodness that he shared generously with his friends at The Cedars in Chapel Hill, where we met him late in his life and where we fondly remember delightful meals and conversations together with Alex and Sonia. Our thoughts are with Sonia and the family he loved.

  • sally knauth

    Sonia, my heart hurts for you but reading of the wonderful family you are now surrounded with gives me rest. Please take care of yourself . Much love, Sally

  • Lillian Chapman

    So sad to realize that this fine man is gone. One of my favorites always, cheering us on outside the fence of the tennis courts, or as Anna was rounding the bases in softball. Always there with a word of encouragement, a smile, and a joke. my love to all the Coffin family.