A pioneer doctor (who also played football)
Many people knew the late Dr. Homer Harris as a key civic leader and role model in Seattle's Central District. He also excelled in sports...
Special to The Times
Many people knew the late Dr. Homer Harris as a key civic leader and role model in Seattle's Central District.
He also excelled in sports and broke a racial barrier in college football when, in 1937, he became the University of Iowa's first African-American team captain. His election was a first in Big Ten history.
For this, and his positive attitude in setting that milestone, he should be remembered as a pioneer in American football.
The vast majority of his life, however, involved not football, but medicine. Dr. Harris ran one of the largest dermatology practices west of the Rockies for almost a half-century, until 2000, and touched countless individuals of all ethnicities and income levels.
He overcame adversity in medicine as well as in football, where discrimination on campus still was evident. When Dr. Harris returned to Seattle to set up his dermatology practice in the Medical Dental Building, he quickly found out that the office available to him as a doctor suddenly became unavailable when the management found out the color of his skin.
Yet, this compassionate man had friends throughout the community who put their values, friendship and influence together to change the management's mind. And so it was that Dr. Harris became an African-American business pioneer as well.
I first met Dr. Harris when I was 7 years old and visited his office. He left an immediate impression on me, as with many other patients. He acted as a role model for young African Americans in Seattle, like myself.
Despite all the discrimination and hardship Homer Harris encountered throughout his life, he always maintained a sense of humor, priorities and confidence.
As one of the thousands he served and influenced throughout his life, I feel it would be unfortunate if Dr. Harris, who died March 17 at the age of 90, were remembered primarily for his athletic prowess and not the nearly 50 years he provided as a doctor to the underserved community he grew up in.
Luckily, there is a permanent tribute to his life of service to the community.
In 2005, a brand-new park opened in the Central District that not only pays tribute to Homer Harris through its name, but also to the spirit of equality and community he embodied.
Please visit Homer Harris Park, at 2401 E. Howell St., and take some time to remember the man whom most people remember: a kind doctor who served his community.
Miller Adams is a Seattle attorney and board member of the Seattle Parks Foundation, which opened the Homer Harris Park in 2005.