Philadelphia, March 29, 2017 – The Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission, an office of City Council, on Wednesday announced the passing of John “Major” Harrison, Jr., a Tuskegee Airman and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, at the age of 96.
A retired Air Force major, Major Harrison served in three wars and was one of the 992 original pilots trained in the nation’s first combat aircraft program for African Americans. Harrison went on to serve as an officer and director for the Peace Corps, based in East Africa; as a high-ranking official in the administrations of Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh and President Richard Nixon; and as a Senior Operations Engineer at The Boeing Company.
Born in Kansas, Major Harrison was raised in Nebraska and Colorado. His military service carried him as far as the Arctic, and he eventually settled in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia, his home for the last 30 years.
“Major Harrison served our nation honorably and with respect at a time when our government shamefully did not afford such treatment to African Americans,” said Veterans Advisory Commission Director Scott Brown.
“Major Harrison defended this country with his whole being for 22 years as a command pilot, became an expert in practically every kind of aircraft. His strength of character continued to his retirement, when he established close ties with the Society Hill Synagogue community and sought to inspire young people around the region by delivering talks at schools and churches. Our city and nation are fortunate to have been a part of Major Harrison’s extraordinary life.”
A visitation for Major Harrison will be held on Thursday, March 30th, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in the Navy Yard. On Friday, March 31st, a second visitation will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., immediately followed by a funeral mass. Inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, will be held at a later date.
Major Harrison is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. The family of Major Harrison requests that donations in his memory be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.