Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harrison Helped Others out, Up

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Harrison Helped Others out, Up

Article excerpt

IF THERE were ever a person for whom the phrase "walk your talk" was made, it was Bill Harrison.

Harrison, who died Thursday of a heart attack while exercising, walked his talk constantly.

As associate dean of academic support and continuing education at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, Harrison could easily have sat back, enjoyed a comfortable life and said, "I got mine, you get yours."

But he wouldn't have been Bill Harrison if he said that.

His message was more like: "I got mine; now let me help you get yours."

I remember Harrison telling me about meetings that he and his wife, Dorothy, would have in their West End living room in the 1960s on major civil rights issues here. Strategy would be hatched, as some of the city's top black leaders discussed issues as varied as racial discrimination at Jefferson Bank to how to elect a black congressman from St. Louis.

Always modest, Harrison never sought headlines for himself. When the news media would occasionally try to focus the spotlight on him, he would deflect it.

One favorite area of deflection was one in which he spent countless hours. Harrison strongly believed that black men have a responsibility to work with young black males. Because so many black households, particularly poorer households, have no father figure, Harrison felt it was important to work with young men to keep them from going astray.

And here was where he really walked his talk.

He founded and directed St. Paul Saturdays, a program through St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, designed to help young men gain self-esteem and strong academic skills. The nationally recognized club for boys meets on Saturday mornings.

He believed in exposing his young charges to the world, to let them know that there was so much more to the world than their own neighborhoods. I often bumped into Harrison at educational programs, dinners, black history events and other activities. There he'd be, along with several of the young men with whom he worked. The world can offer you so much, went his message, if you get a good education and go after it.

An important aspect of the program, he once told me, was high expectations of all of the young men who participated. …

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