April 4, 1940 – July 29, 2018
Riley Harris Jr., a longtime juvenile counselor at Father Baker Homes and a member of the first Black Achievers group, died Sunday at age 78.
He was born on April 4, 1940, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the oldest of seven children born to Riley Sr. and Annie Harris. He acted as a father figure to his siblings Hattie, Audrey, Annie, Johnnie, Georgia and Margaret.
Mr. Harris attended public schools in Tuscaloosa and graduated as a star athlete from Druid High School.
His undergraduate studies were at Texas Southern University in Houston and the University of the Americas in Mexico City, which he attended on a basketball scholarship. He ran track and was invited to try out for the Boston Celtics after college. He was known as "Mr. Basketball."
In Mexico City, Mr. Harris met Yvonne Raines and the two married on Feb. 18, 1967. They had two sons, Derrick and Jamal.
Described by his family as a proud family man, Mr. Harris was supportive of the endeavors of his wife and sons.
Mr. Harris enjoyed working with children and retired from Father Baker Homes after 30 years of service as a juvenile custody counselor. He was a union steward and he also worked at the Friendship House.
Mr. Harris joined the Calvary Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and served on the Usher Board and as a member of the Trustee Board until his health began to fail. He was described as a quiet soul but a dynamic force in the church, where his presence was always revered.
In 1979, Mr. Harris was in the first cohort to receive the Buffalo Black Achievers Award. He also received a Men Moving Forward honor in 2009.
Besides his wife of 51 years and his sons, Mr. Harris is survived by two grandchildren; three sisters, Hattie Wallace, Audrey Harris and Annie Bivins; and nieces, nephews and cousins.
A service, including an ushers' march, will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 in Calvary Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 1007 Ellicott St., with the funeral starting at 11 a.m.