Willie F. Harrison Sr., 90, claims reviewer, veteran


Willie Fred Harrison Sr., a World War II Army veteran and claims reviewer for the Social Security Administration, died at University of Maryland Medical Center on Sept. 8 after suffering a heart attack in a parking garage at Lexington Market.

The 90-year-old Baltimore resident was a long-distance commuter - he traveled home to his family in Georgetown, S.C., several times a month for more than 40 years.

Mr. Harrison was born in Athens, Ga., and was orphaned at 8 when his mother died, leaving him in the care of family friends in Calhoun Falls, S.C. After graduating from high school in South Carolina, he earned a bachelor's degree from Allen University in Columbia, S.C., and a master's degree in French from the University of Michigan.

He instilled in his family zero tolerance for half-hearted efforts, said his daughter, Willette Freda Harrison Williams of Denmark, S.C.

"One thing about my daddy - he just never made excuses for anything. He came from a humble background and he felt if he could do it, you could, too," she said. "He just felt that no one has an excuse for not doing what they want to do in life."

Mr. Harrison taught high school English and French and coached several sports in Georgetown, before being drafted into the Army in 1942. He married a teacher, the former Grace Jackson, in 1943.

In his 26 years of military service, he earned medals and citations including Bronze and Silver stars. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserves in 1968 as a major.

Mrs. Williams and her twin brother, Willie Fred Harrison Jr. of Philadelphia, grew up in Georgetown, a small coastal town between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. The only time the family moved was to accompany Mr. Harrison while he was stationed in France from 1953 to 1955.

He left active duty in the Army in 1957 and taught high school French and English for two years in Georgetown before accepting a job at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn in 1959, where he worked until his death.

Mr. Harrison did not move his family to Maryland, but chose to have them remain in Georgetown, visiting them as often as he could. Most of the time he made the trip by car, but in recent years he sometimes traveled by plane.

The commute was something the family got used to, Mrs. Williams said.

"They kept a marriage together," she said. "Every time we got together, it was like Christmas."

She said her father loved his job, but didn't like big-city life and wanted to raise his family in the safety and familiarity of a small town.

Services were held Saturday in Georgetown.

In addition to his wife, daughter and son, he is survived by five grandchildren.

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