Frederick Harris

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Frederick “Fred” Harris, age 47, died at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson on Sunday, July 26.

Born May 5, 1962, in Vicksburg to Willie Harris Jr. and Rosie Enochs Harris,  Fred attended fabled basketball powerhouse Vicksburg High where he was a standout athlete.  During his senior year, 1980, his on-the-court prowess helped lead his team to a stunning 40-5 record while capturing the District 6, State AA, Delta Big 8 and overall state championship titles. He was named to the All-County, All-South State and All-State tournament teams.

Highly regarded and heavily recruited, Fred signed a basketball scholarship with Jackson State University, fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a Blue Bengal Tiger and playing for legendary Coach Paul Covington. At JSU, Fred excelled on the court and in the classroom as a true student athlete, amassing three-year letterman and Scholar Athlete honors in both 1983 and 1984. 

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Upon graduation with the bachelor’s degree in physical education, he worked as a graduate assistant coach at JSU before taking over in 1989 as head basketball coach at Jackson Public Schools’ Jim Hill High.  The 2009-2010 basketball season would have been his 20th, thus earning him the nickname “the Dean of JPS Coaches” in reference to his status as the longest tenured coach among his active counterparts. 

At Jim Hill, Fred quickly made his mark with players, students and peers, working tirelessly to build the Tigers into one of the most widely respected programs in Mississippi. His teams were known for being well-prepared and hardworking on the court, resulting in a 325-254 record over 19 years.  Along the way, Fred’s Tigers played in five state tournaments (1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2009). His 2004-05 squad won the South MS 4A Champion and was the overall 4A state finals runner-up, finishing with a 24-12 record. Eleven of his former players have signed NCAA Division 1 scholarships. 

Known as a strict disciplinarian and defensive-minded coach, Fred was named District VI Coach of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.  He was selected South All-Stars coach for the Mississippi High School All-Star Basketball game in 2005.  He was a father figure and role model to his players, and he was wholly committed to them and their academic and athletic success. In 1999, Fred was named “star teacher” at Jim Hill after being nominated by one of his players who went on to earn a law degree from the University of Texas. In keeping with his commitment to academic excellence, Fred earned the master’s degree in educational leadership from Mississippi College in 2005.

In addition to serving as head basketball coach at Jim Hill since 1989, Fred was assistant principal for the last five years.  He was a member of Cedar Grove M.B. Church in Vicksburg, which he joined as a young child, and regularly worshipped with his family at College Hill M.B. Church in Jackson.  For 12 years, he was a Jackson reserve police officer. He was also a member of the Mississippi Association of Coaches as well as Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Survivors include his wife, Areda R. Cockrell-Harris, whom he wed on Nov. 28, 1998; and four children, Bracey Shalese 17, Morgan Ashleigh 9, Cole Frederick 7, and Madison Alline 17 months; his parents, Willie Harris Jr. and Rosie Enochs Harris of Vicksburg; two brothers, Reginald (Emma) Harris and Terry (Sharon) Harris, of Jackson; and legions of other relatives, current and former students and players, colleagues, and friends.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 at New Jerusalem Church-North, 5708 Old Canton Road in Jackson, with burial immediately following at Autumn Woods Cemetery on West Northside Drive in Jackson. Public visitation and viewing will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, July 31, at Westhaven Memorial Funeral Home Chapel, 3580 Robinson Road in Jackson, followed by a family and friends hour from 6 to 7:30 p.m., also at Westhaven. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the Fred Harris Children’s Education Fund are welcome and may be made at any branch of BankPlus, c/o Areda Cockrell-Harris for the children of Fred Harris.