In Memoriam: William Hamilton Harris, 1944-2024

William Hamilton Harris, two-time president of historically Black Alabama State University, passed away on April 19. He was 79 years old.

Dr. Harris had a long career in higher education leadership, serving as president, or interim president, of multiple historically Black institutions including Paine College in Georgia and Texas Southern University. From 1994 until his retirement in 2000, he served as president of Alabama State University. During this time, the university experienced significant growth and started its first doctoral program. Under Dr. Harris’ leadership the university established the School of Allied Health, the Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture, and the Business and Technology Center. Additionally, Dr. Harris guided the university through the 30-year Knight v. State of Alabama¬†federal court case that challenged racially discriminatory policies at Alabama colleges and universities.

In 2005, Dr. Harris left retirement to serve as interim president of historically Black Fort Valley State University in Georgia for one year. In 2008, he returned to Alabama State University as interim president after a brief stint as interim president of historically Black Texas College. He was elevated to permanent president of Alabama State in 2009 and served in that role until Dr. Joseph Silver assumed the presidency in 2012. However, Dr. Silver only remained in his position for 13 weeks after the board of trustees called for his resignation. Shortly after, Dr. Harris returned and took up the presidential mantel of Alabama State University once again, retiring for the final time in 2014.

Dr. Harris received his bachelor’s degree from Paine College. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Indiana University.

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