Here’s some family history I’m proud to share

I grew up in the hills of north Louisiana not knowing until much later that not too far back in my lineage was a rather famous relative, long-time state Superintendent of Education, Thomas H. Harris.

I have a vague memory of meeting him as a youngster when “Uncle Tom” came to visit his older brother, Ausie, who was my grandfather.

A book given to me by a dear friend and former co-worker, Rae Tatum Malone, is one of my prized possessions, “The Memoirs of T.H. Harris.” In this book he tells of his 32 years as Superintendent of Education but also talks about his growing up years on a 250-acre farm in the Arizona community of Claiborne Parish located between Homer and Lisbon.

One of the most shocking bits of news he revealed in the book was the fact that Thomas H. Harris was not his real name. Here’s how he describes it….”My name is not Thomas H. Harris, but Lee Marcus Harris. The name by which I have been known all my life developed as follows: When I was about three days old, my next older brother, Ausie, three years of age at the time, was invited to inspect his baby brother. Ausie looked me over and said, ‘Little Tom.” And Tom I was thenceforth and forever.” The middle initial “H.,” which stands for nothing, was added later.

When my job transferred me to Homer in 1964, my memories of my Great Uncle Tom were vague at best. I was more interested in squirrel hunting on Middle Fork, deer hunting with

Bill Bailey and his hounds around Summerfield or fishing in the brand-new Lake Claiborne. I was to learn later that a goodly portion of the land inundated by the popular lake was acreage on which my grandfather and his more famous brother grew up.

I was also aware that the community of Langston south of Homer had been renamed in honor of my great uncle. It is now known as the Harris community with a school there, a school that is now a church encampment, the Harris Baptist Encampment.

Scores of college students down through the years have had at least a portion of their tuition paid for by being recipients of the T.H. Harris Scholarship. I regret missing out on that honor; I was having too much fun with college life to have qualifying grades.

Buildings on college campuses around the state today are named after my great uncle. In Grambling, for example, you’ll find the T.H. Harris Auditorium, constructed in 1960.

When I received word that a memorial plaque was to be erected in honor of Uncle Tom, I wanted to see it. Recently, my sister and I motored up to Homer to see if we could find it, and we did. Located along Highway 2 between Homer and Lisbon, the marker sits within two miles of where T.H. Harris and my grandfather grew up. We also found another marker along Arizona Road marking the site of the Arizona Academy from which he graduated.

This column, I realize, is not my usual outdoors related missive. It has little to do with my coverage of hunting and fishing experiences.

I may not have many famous kin but it is gratifying to know that I had one, and even had the honor of my grandfather naming him. Lee Marcus just doesn’t have the same ring as “little Tom.”


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