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Former ASU President William H. Harris dies at age 79

Former Alabama State University President Dr. William H. Harris, died Friday, April 19, the university confirmed. Harris was 79.

“The University extends its deepest condolences to President Harris’ wife, former First Lady Wanda Harris, his son Dr. William J. Harris, and his family, friends, former employees, alumni and the countless people he influenced,” ASU President Quinton T. Ross Jr. said in a release Saturday afternoon.

Harris was a Georgia native and before coming to ASU, he was president of Paine College and Texas Southern University.

He became president in June 1994, according to ASU. In April 2000, Harris, then 56, made a simple, short statement: “I’m retiring.” But that would not mean the end of his leadership. According to ASU, he returned to the presidency position several times on an interim basis.

During his first six years at ASU, the Advertiser reported that Harris:

  • Establishment of a School of Allied Health.
  • Navigated ASU through the case of Knight v. Alabama.
  • Laid the foundation for ASU’s first doctoral programs.
  • Saw the debut of the ASU Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture.
  • Saw the opening of ASU’s Business and Technology Center.

At the time of his death, Harris was living in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Harris’ family announced that final arrangements are still pending and will be announced once they are finalized, ASU said.

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel can be reached at [email protected].