She taught many subjects in the nearly 40 years she served the Mississippi public schools, but concentrated on biology and chemistry, and was head of the science department at Clarksdale High School until her retirement in 1980. She then got a nursing degree, skills she employed for free to help whoever needed helping in her community.
She was born Etta Pauline Coleman on July 13, 1918, the daughter of the late Rev. Arch James Coleman and Bird Walker Houston Coleman.
She is survived by a sister, Eleanor Coleman Garrett of Cleveland; a brother, Dr. James Arch Coleman Jr., of Waco, Texas; a son, William Thomas Harris III of New York; a granddaughter, Anne Harris Grivich ofAustin, Texas; a nephew, David Wesley Coleman of Cleveland; as well as numerous friends and former students.
Mrs. Harris was graduated from Cleveland High School and married her beloved William Thomas Harris in November 1939 in Cleveland. She earned a bachelor of science degree in education from Delta State University in 1939 and went on to achieve a masters degree in science from the University of Mississippi under a National Science Foundation scholarship. Mrs. Harris was one of only 34 teachers in the Clarksdale independent school district with a masters degree when she matriculated. In her early career, she taught science and home economics at Lula-Rich Consolidated School in Coahoma County and Darling high school in Quitman.
Her interests included the history of Native Americans; life among indigenous Alaskans; the work of Charles Darwin and Mother Teresa; advances in medical technology; anything concerning the natural sciences; and country and western music. She was also a natural critic and student of narrative film, wore hats to great effect, and followed the worlds of men and women's fashions religiously. Her wisdom, passion, encouragement, and affection, are missed by many.
A memorial service will be held Friday, January 6, 2011, at First United Methodist Church, 318 South Court Street, in Cleveland, the Rev. Barry Dickerson presiding.