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Alabama gives a deserving native son his due.

Monday, August 20 dawned hot and sunny, as had most days in Alabama during this drought-plagued summer of 2007. But the forecast had promised cooler weather, with the temperature remaining in the 90s, a sharp contrast to the recent past, when the thermometer had routinely climbed well past 100 degrees.

By 11 a.m., James I. Harrison Jr., his wife Peggy, their five children and their spouses, several of their grandchildren and a number of their friends--most notably Packy Nespeca, the one-time American Greetings executive who had long since become one of Harrison's dearest friends--had begun arriving in Montgomery, the state capital, from Tuscaloosa, Hamson's home. They had come for Jim Harrison's induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor, the highest award the state can bestow on a living Alabamian.

Harrison was to receive this award "for accomplishments and service benefiting or reflecting great credit on the state." Membership in this most-exclusive club, the recognition made clear, was limited to 100 living individuals. Jim Harrison was about to become one of them.

He was not the only inductee. Three other Alabamians would be admitted this day, including the legendary Henry Aaron, until recently holder of the major league all-time home run record. But for many in the audience this day belonged to Harrison.

When he was formally introduced his many accomplishments were cited: the 153-store Harco drug chain he built from the single store his father had given him when the younger Harrison graduated college, the auto parts and home health care chains he successfully ran, his tenure as chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, his many national business and pharmacy honors and awards.

His contributions and good works since selling Harco to Rite Aid in 1997 were detailed as well, most notably the establishment of the James I. Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University in honor of his father, and his role in founding and funding the landmark Success by Six Educational Initiatives in Tuscaloosa County. The later endeavor is a remarkable program designed to provide disadvantaged preschoolers with enough education to enable them to effectively compete once they start grade school. This last program has recently caught the attention of educators throughout the state and the nation, and the University of Alabama, a Tuscaloosa-based institution, recently announced a commitment to help finance the program going forward.

Finally, it was Harrison's turn to speak. Typically, he was brief and self-effacing, as he has been all his life. He thanked the Academy for the recognition, recalled his father's love of baseball and of Hank Aaron, remembering the elder Harrison's penchant during the baseball season of inquiring how "Henry" did that day.

Then he spoke of Alabama, "the place that I love," and of the Alabamians who had always been there--when he welcomed his children into the world, when he buried his parents and brother, when he opened the doors of his drag stores and the people came to trade. He ended by paraphrasing Cicero, no remarkable feat for Jimmy Harrison and no surprise to anyone who knows him: "The highest honor can only be given to a man by those who hold his heart."

"And so," concluded James I. Harrison, Jr., on this remarkable and memorable occasion, "it is for me."

By David Pinto, Editor
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Title Annotation:My Turn; James I. Harrison
Comment:Alabama gives a deserving native son his due.(My Turn)(James I.
Author:Pinto, David
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U6AL
Date:Sep 17, 2007
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