People of Etowah: Carl Harrison


Name: Carl Harrison

Where were you born and raised?

“I was born around Pell City. My dad worked on the road, when I was about 11 years old we moved to Gadsden.”

What is your occupation?

“I was in the military for 20 years. I’m retired army.  I worked in transportation and doing a little bit of everything. For 40 years I’ve been doing ROTC, and I’m still doing it.”

Harrison currently works as a JROTC instructor at Gadsden City High School. He started the JROTC program in the Gadsden schools in 1984.

“I’ve been wearing this uniform since 1952 at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) as a student in ROTC. I tell people that I don’t retire because I don’t know how to dress myself.”

What made you decide to work in your field?

“That was a job after I completed the military. I didn’t even know that they had the JROTC in high schools until when I started to retire, and I saw a little advertisement come across the desk for JROTC instructors. You had to be retired. I was in Wisconsin, and I called Fort Riley, Kansas and asked what I had to do to get one of the jobs. She asked where I would like to go, and I said Boaz, just playing around. She said we just filled that job, and she gave me the name of the guy in Birmingham, and I had a job with ROTC. I was just as happy as I could be. Stayed there seven years, and when you stay there seven years, when you are in the military, that’s home. My superior called me and told me they wanted to start an ROTC program in Gadsden, so I went up to talk to them. I didn’t expect to get a job. I was happy where I was, but before I went back home they talked me into coming to Gadsden and starting the program. I’ve been here ever since.”

Tell us about your family and pets.

“I have a wife of 63 years, Marlene Clark Harrison.And I got two sons, Rick (59) and Mike (49). Both work in television up in Birmingham. Rick was born in Newfoundland in Canada and Mike was born in Japan. I have three grandkids, but one is my wife’s nephew’s grandson but we keep him all the time. He was named after us. But I say that I have thousands of grandchildren because I consider all of my former JROTC cadets’ children, my grandchildren. I’ve been doing this for 40 years, so I have a lot of kids that I had to start off with, and I have their kids now. And they all call me Poppa.”

What school or schools have you attended?

“I graduated from Gadsden High School in ‘52. I stayed at Auburn for a year and then transferred over to Jacksonville State University. I played a little football at Jacksonville”

What do you like to do in your free time?

I guess try to keep up with grandkids. I don’t have a lot of free time working with the ROTC.”

Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?

I have to mention my parents, Guy and Polly Harrison. Dad worked at Goodyear and retired from Goodyear, and Mom was a housewife and made all of us marry and mind her. There was four of us in the family, two boys and two girls.”

What is your favorite thing about this community?

The people.”

What would you like to see change in the community?

“It’s just home, and you know, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

What is your favorite quote?

“Happiness is not doing what you like, but learning to like what you have to do.” He said that this is something he tells his students. “At that age kids are looking for something to keep them happy.”

What advice would you give yourself as a child?

“Just, obey your parents.”

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