To hear Joe Harp tell it, getting a job at The Herald-Mail was almost an accident. Due in Hagerstown that day (March 28, 1926) for a dentist's appointment, he decided to check on a job he'd heard about at the newspaper. He got the job, a reporter's post that paid $15 a week, beginning an association with this company that lasted for 59 years and a friendship with this community that continued until his death on Monday at age 89.
Calling someone a "legend" today doesn't mean what it used to, but it's an apt description of Joseph M. Harp and what he meant to local journalism. His career began at a time when copy still came into the newspaper in Morse code, to be deciphered by a telegraph operator. It ended five years after the newsroom was completely computerized. Harp walked everywhere, at first by necessity because few staffers in the 1920s could afford a car. Later it was by choice, so he could keep in touch with everybody from the mayor to the cop on the beat.