F. W. “Rick” Harrison died suddenly on December 29. He was 78 years old. He leaves behind the love of his life, Marion – his wife and constant companion for fifty-odd years. Born in Macon, Georgia in 1938, Harrison grew up playing football for his father, John “Cotton” Harrison, and working the horses at Cotton Harrison’s Camp. He accepted a two-year football scholarship to the University of South Carolina despite having four-year offers from other schools. South Carolina offered to fly him up to Columbia, and he had never been on a plane. Harrison graduated from the University of South Carolina and earned a BS, MS and PhD from the institution, despite the malicious intent of his doctoral advisor, a man of Trumpian intellectual curiosity and hand size. His academic and professional achievements were vast. Most notably, Harrison was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Morphology, and treatise editor of The Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, a 23 volume series published by Wiley-Liss. He was the recipient of the O. Max Gardner Award, which recognizes the member of the North Carolina University system who did the most for the human race in that year.
Harrison began his academic career at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. After a sabbatical stint at Sydney University in Australia, he joined the faculty at Albany Medical College as a Professor of Anatomy in Albany, NY, even though he had never seen a dead person before. From there, Harrison moved to Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, as head of the Biology Department. His research took him to all corners of the globe, from a project on a NASA space shuttle to another with NOAH into the depths of the ocean. He was relentless in dragging his family to obscure parts of the world in search of obscure invertebrates. No freshwater sponge was ever too rare, and no tax deduction was ever too small.
An avid gardener, Harrison found great joy in killing plants as this gave him the perfect excuse to buy new ones while dodging the scorn of Marion. He was by turns a rabid fan and a rabid critic of South Carolina football. He still held a candle for Steve Spurrier, but of late had become a shameless Dabo Swinney band wagoner. More than anything, though, Harrison loved being with his grandchildren and forcing everyone else to hear about how great they all are. For them, for his children and their spouses, for his family and for his countless friends, the world is now a smaller and much less entertaining place.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be given to any organization that might derail the Trump/Putin 2020 ticket. This would bring him great happiness since his Republican friends likely outnumber Democrats five to one.
There will be a memorial service at 2 o'clock Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the Harbor Island community center. A reception will follow. Rest assured that he will be mad at all of you for having a party without him.