Music and faith open the door to education

The musical talent and faith of a little boy allowed his dreams to become a reality. Minister Dr. George Harrison grew up in Belton. He is also the director of Cultural Affairs and Community Service for the university. At 6
years old, he was ordained a minister for the children’s choir at Magnolia Baptist Church. Harrison’s gift of music would later open the doors of education for him.

“I have always loved music,” Harrison said. “I have also been a minister for 49 years.”

The minister has two older brothers, Roscoe and Prince. Roscoe is now the pastor at 8th St. Baptist Church in Temple.

“George has always been hard working and very talented,” Pastor Roscoe said. “He can write, play and sing.”

Director of Cultural Affairs and Community Service Dr. George Harrison demonstrates his musical talents on the keyboard. He is playing a song he wrote. Photo by Mary Beth Kelton

Director of Cultural Affairs and Community Service Dr. George Harrison demonstrates his musical talents on the keyboard. He is playing a song he wrote. Photo by Mary Beth Kelton

Harrison said his father started working for Cochran, Blair and Potts at the age of 12.

“I grew up on S. Pearl Street and later moved to Main Street. It was mainly African American families. My father was a great provider.”

Tragically, Harrison’s father passed away on Dec. 16, 1968. Harrison was only 13 years old.

“Dad had me at an older age; he was 55. I was a surprise,” Harrison said. “He had been sick before he died. My brothers were much older than me and did not live near us, so after that, it was just my mom and I.”

With rent at $75 a month for their Main Street house, Harrison’s mother struggled to keep a roof over their heads.

“After my Father passed we couldn’t afford it and we lost it,” he said. “We moved back to the house on Pearl Street and fixed it up.”

The young boy’s mother never gave up hope. She continued to provide for her son.

“I’ve been working since I was eight years old,” Harrison said. “My mother catered and was a domestic cleaner. I would go with her catering and carried Coca Cola trays for tips.”

Pastor Roscoe said their mother never let the other boys know how badly she was struggling. She did not want them to worry.

“My mom and I were always taken care of,” Harrison said. “Ray Potts, who had employed my father, always made sure we had clothes. I also remember the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, who owned Firestone on Main. On Christmas Eve, they would let me pick out toys and let my mom pay off the money by spring.”

Pastor Roscoe said, “We learned hard work ethic from our parents,”

Harrison is currently writing a book inspired by his childhood.

“It is titled, Life’s Lessons from my Mama, stories from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The book is about self-esteem, communication and how to respect people. It will be released next fall.”

Harrison and his mother made the choice that he would not go to college because it was too expensive. They decided he would use his musical talents instead to get by in life.

In 1964, Harrison began playing the piano for various events at the university, including talent shows. Dr. Bobbie Parker, who was the president at the time, was in the audience at one of the talent shows.

“The last week of my senior year of high school, a man named Bill Elliot who worked for university recruiting, came to my school,” Harrison said. “He called me out of my class and said Dr. Parker wanted to speak with me.” Parker offered Harrison a full musical scholarship to UMHB.

“My mother never quit crying, she was so happy,” Harrison said. “I never imagined I would go to college.”

The high school graduate accepted the offer and enrolled at the university.

“George was the first black student to enter the college with a full music scholarship,” Pastor Roscoe said.

Harrison wrote and produced lyrics for the Miss MHB pageant.

“I was the director of music for the event,” he said, “I wrote ‘Life is but a Song,’ I also met my wife at UMHB; she is now a professor in the A&M system. I loved every minute of every moment at UMHB. I think if they were to cut me, I’d bleed purple.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s in music, Harrison received a master’s in Engineering through the Topeka Kansas Atchison School of Engineering.

“I took a job with the Santa Fe Railroad. They offered me $75,000 a year.
That was great money back then and still is.”

Harrison later left the railroad to pursue ministry.

“The reason he quit is because they wanted him to work on Sundays,” Pastor
Roscoe said. “If he did that, he wouldn’t be able to minister.”

Harrison decided to enroll at a seminary called Teaching God’s Seminary, located in Round Rock, Texas.

“It allowed about 500 men to obtain a doctorate in ministry,” Harrison said.
“President George Bush Jr. was the governor of Texas at the time and was the only person that I know of who provided faith-based money. When he left, the money left. Bush is a hero of mine”

Today, Harrison is employed back at his purple roots.

Dean of Students Ray Martin appreciates having Harrison in the Student Development department.

“He truly cares about the students,” he said. “He’s always there for them and works extra hours to make sure he is.” Harrison is grateful to the community for their support throughout his life.

“Belton is a reflection of how America should be,” he said. “There aren’t black people and white people. There are just kind people.”

Harrison said UMHB is also a reflection of how America should be.

“From Bobbie Parker to Dr. Bawcom and Randy O’Rear,” he said. “They call me brother and we are brothers. It is a great place to be. It’s home to me.”

Author: Mary Beth Kelton

I am a senior at UMHB and loving it! I am the features editor for The Bells and I also intern at the Temple Chamber of Commerce. I transferred to UMHB fall 2008 and God has done so many amazing things with my life. I am excited to graduate in May but more excited about the next two semesters and the memories that I will gain. I plan to continue my education by obtaining a masters degree in sociology after graduation unless I am somehow blessed with a job.

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