Harris holds 100th birthday, seen a lot during her life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Marcelete Harris turns 100 years old on Jan. 25, 2016. |  Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

Marcelete Harris turns 100 years old on Jan. 25, 2016. |
Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

Marcelete Harris has seen and heard a lot over the last 99 years.

The Atmore native and Houston, Texas resident, is turning 100 years old on Jan. 25, more than a week after celebrating with family and close friends at Wind Creek Atmore.

The ninth of 12 children, Harris was born in Atmore and went to school at Escambia County Training School, now known as Escambia County High School.

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Steve, Harris’s son, said for the party at the casino, his sisters Patricia Luckett and Rosiland McRae, felt like the best thing was for her to be in Atmore to celebrate the occasion.

“She wanted to be in Atmore,” Steve said about his mom.

For 42 years, Marcelete Harris was a teacher at Rachel Patterson Elementary. Before moving to RPES, Harris taught at ECTS before integration.

“I was the first who went over when they integrated,” she said. “I had been working in black schools all the time.”

Harris said the adjustment to integrated schools went OK.

“You had children who were not as they are now,” she said. “We got along fine. I have students right now that will call me from New York and from anywhere in Alabama.

“Some of them are here and call all the time,” she said.

Harris has lived in Atmore for all of her life except for five years, when she lived with her late husband, Curtis, in Chicago, Ill. The couple met while in school at Alabama State University in Montgomery.

Steve said Harris would teach during the semester and come back during summers to work on her degree.

“She did that for three or four years to finish her degree,” he said. “She and dad met there. He was on a music scholarship from Chicago.

“That was the late 1930s and she graduated in 1931,” he said. “Then, after World War II, that’s when they moved to Chicago. Shortly after, I was born, and mom decided she didn’t want me to grow up in Chicago and moved me back to Atmore.”

Curtis was a band director at ECTS and served on the Atmore City Council from 1988-2000 before retiring.

The Harrises traveled all over the world because of Curtis’s job with the U.S. Army and for fun.

The Harris children sent their parents on a trip to Ahmad, Jordan and then to Israel and Egypt.

Harris said she learned a lot while on her travels and on the trip to Egypt, where she was baptized in the River Jordan.

During the Civil Rights era, Harris said she got the opportunity to go see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at Tuskeegee University, where her nephew, Joe Jones, was graduating.

When asked whether the speech was good, Harris smiled and said, “we still sit down and listen to it.”