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James I. Harrison, notable Tuscaloosa pharmacist and philanthropist, died Monday morning. He was 87.

Harrison’s family implanted their legacy in the Druid City by way of the pharmaceutical business, owning and operating Harco Drug, one of the top chain drugstores in the country. Upon his retirement from pharmacy, the Harrisons shifted their energy to a life of community service, namely through education initiatives.

Harrison graduated from one of the final classes of St. John’s Parochial School in Tuscaloosa. He studied at Baylor Prep in Chattanooga before moving back home to play basketball and baseball for The University of Alabama. He then decided to pursue the family business and transfer to Samford University, then referred to as Howard College.

The Harrison family worked in pharmaceuticals for much of James Jr.’s life, amassing regular patrons like Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. When Harco was sold to Rite Aid in 1997 in an estimated $300 million deal, the company had risen to be one of the largest private-owned chains in the country with over 150 stores in the southeast. The company was something of a pioneer in the superdrug world, as it helped to introduce the concept of including clothing and other common housewares in its stores.

In Harrison’s retirement, he and his wife Peggy devoted their lives to service. A non-exhaustive list of organizations that have benefited from the James I. Harrison Family Foundation include:

  • Holy Spirit Catholic Church
  • Judson College
  • Nick’s Kids Foundation
  • RISE Center
  • Samford University
  • St. Francis Catholic Church
  • Theatre Tuscaloosa
  • Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation
  • Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra
  • United Way of West Alabama

Harrison earned dozens of awards and achievements in his life, including Citizen of the Year Award from the Tuscaloosa Civitan Club and the Nick’s Kids Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps his most recognizable legacy lives in south Tuscaloosa, where James I. Harrison Jr. Parkway carries his namesake.

Harrison is survived by his wife, Peggy, five children (Jim III, Cissy, Ronnie, Cheri and Kie) and 15 grandchildren. His funeral will be on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 2:30 p.m. at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Visitation begins at 1 p.m.

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