Gate-crasher Harris dies of heart attack
By Bill Kirby and Johnny Edwards| Staff Writers
Saturday, July 07, 2007

Charles Harris, the man who crashed his pickup through the gates of the Augusta National Golf Club in 1983 so he could talk to visiting President Ronald Reagan about the plight of American workers, has died.

Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins confirmed Friday night that Mr. Harris, 68, of Appling, suffered a heart attack and died Wednesday.

A phone call Friday night seeking a family comment was not answered.

In a 2004 interview with The Augusta Chronicle, Mr. Harris spoke warmly of Mr. Reagan. "I voted for him," he said. "I thought he was a fine man. Even in the movies, he always played the good guy."

Mr. Harris made national headlines on Oct. 22, 1983, when he crashed his 1974 Dodge pickup through Gate 3 of the Augusta National while the president was playing golf inside on the 16th hole.

He seized five hostages, holding them at gunpoint in the club's pro shop, while demanding to speak to the president about the government replacing American workers with foreigners.

At one point, President Reagan tried to talk with him by phone, but Mr. Harris hung up, thinking it was a trick.

Secret Service agents whisked the president to safety, and Mr. Harris eventually surrendered.

According to reports in The Chronicle, he pleaded guilty Jan. 30, 1984, to kidnapping an Augusta National Golf Club chauffeur, false imprisonment of a golf club pro shop employee and a special assistant to the president and criminal damage to property in the second degree for damaging the gate.

A Richmond County Superior Court judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison and 10 years probation. He served 3 years of a reduced 10-year sentence and was released from the Coastal Correctional Institution in 1987.

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