Sidney Lewis (“S. L.”) Harris of Fort Worth passed away Monday, December 7, 2020 at his home.
Known throughout his life as S. L., he was born at Miles, Texas on February 6, 1927 to Samuel Lee and Bertha Johnson Harris. His family moved to the Austin/San Marcos area when he was three. He graduated from Austin High School in 1944 and Howard Payne College (now University) in 1948. A lifelong learner, he earned master’s degrees in theology and sociology and the doctorate in sociology. He was awarded an honorary degree by Clarke College in 1987.
During his freshman year at Howard Payne, he met Fleta Nell Lindley, also a freshman. They became best of friends and at the end of their sophomore year became engaged. Upon graduation in 1948, they married and began their 65 years of love-filled life together. Two people could not have loved one another more deeply. To their union were born three daughters, each of whom was loved unconditionally. His greatest joy was his family, to which he gave himself unreservedly.
Dr. Harris served as pastor of Baptist churches while in college and seminary and, following his seminary work, was the founding pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Austin. While in college he was very active in the Baptist Student Union at both the campus and state levels. He was chosen by the Student Department of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to be a member of the revival teams that spearheaded the youth revival movement in Texas and beyond in the 1940-50s. His love for students led him to enter campus ministry in 1953, serving as Baptist Student Director and Bible teacher at Sam Houston State Teachers College (now University) for six years followed by six years at Texas Tech University.
At Texas Tech he was introduced to higher education administration as Head of the Department of Biblical Literature, a role which would shape his career from that time on. Following his service at Texas Tech were administrative stints as Dean of Students at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas; Administration Consultant in the Student Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee; Vice-President of Student Affairs followed by Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Director of the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom at Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Texas; and President of Clarke College, Newton Mississippi. He was also on the original faculty of the Northeast Campus of Tarrant County Junior College in Fort Worth, Texas serving as a counselor and teaching sociology. A teacher at heart, he always taught at least one class of sociology, whatever his administrative position. He concluded his full-time career and ministry as Associate Pastor/Director of the Counseling Ministry of the First Baptist Church, Brownwood while continuing to teach part-time at Howard Payne. He held the distinction of having held every academic rank from part-time instructor to President. In retirement, he returned to Tarrant County Junior College to teach part-time and to work part-time as a field worker for Baylor University’s Department of Church and Denominational Relations.
Dr. Harris served on the Board of Trustees of Baptist Memorials Ministries, San Angelo, for ten years, five as chairman, prior to moving to Missouri in 1999. After an “extended vacation” of two years in the Ozarks, he and Mrs. Harris moved to Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo. Dr. Harris’s commitment to his Lord, his church, his calling, and his family was evident throughout his life.
He is survived by his daughters, Ann Harris Mills and Donna Harris of Saginaw, Texas, and Paula Boyd (Robbie) of Midland Texas; by four grandchildren: Ed Mills (Brandie) of Fort Worth, Texas; Ben Boyd (Courtney) of Snyder, Texas, Sarah Lester (Tim) of Midland, Texas, and Thomas Boyd (Kendra) of Lubbock, Texas; and by nine great grandchildren: Samuel, Peyton, and Cameron Mills; Beck and Brittyn Boyd; JT and Melody Lester; and Emma and Harris Boyd. Other survivors include nieces and nephews: Gwen Taylor Hayes (Tim), Victoria Vann Reck (Dwight), Lindley Vann (Loetta), Carolyn Vann, and David Vann (Julie). He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, his sister Arline Harris Taylor, and a niece.