About James I. Harrison

Bust of James Harrison in the Walker building

Auburn's school of pharmacy was named the Harrison School of Pharmacy in a ceremony on Jan. 25, 2002. Then-interim Auburn president William F. Walker had this to say at the time:

"No other Alabama family has contributed as much to the field of pharmacy in Alabama as the Harrisons. Without a doubt, they are Alabama's first family of pharmacy. The vision the Harrison family exhibited with the founding and growth of the Harco chain is exactly the same kind of vision we hope to cultivate in our graduates from the AU Harrison School of Pharmacy."

James I. Harrison, Sr., was born in rural Perry County and began his pharmacy career as an employee of Wilkerson Drug in Marion while still in high school. Soon after graduating high school, he entered pharmacy school at Auburn University and was supported not only by his own family, but also by Dr. Wilkerson, the owner of the drug store where he had worked. Dr. Wilkerson was instrumental in guiding the young man toward a career in pharmacy.

In 1944, 16 years after earning his Auburn pharmacy degree, Harrison and his wife, Elizabeth, opened the first family-owned store, Central Drugs, in downtown Tuscaloosa. When his son, Jim Jr., graduated from pharmacy school in 1955, the elder Harrison acquired a second store, Druid Drug on the campus of the University of Alabama, which Jim Jr. and his brother, Ben, managed. The Harrisons owned five stores in Tuscaloosa by 1967, when they opened their first “out-of-town” store in Auburn. And the growth continued.

Jim Harrison, Jr. grew Harco into a chain of more then 150 stores before the company merged with Rite Aid in 1997. Chain Drug Review named Harco the nations’ top community drug store chain in 1995.

A graduate of Howard College (now Samford University), Jim Jr. has been honored for his distinguished service to the Auburn School of Pharmacy, Samford University, and the University of Alabama. He served as chairman of the board of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in 1985. He received the Merck Sharp & Dohn Pharmacist Achievement Award in 1990 and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Sheldon W. Fantle Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Harrison was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Alabama Health Hall of Fame in 1999.

James I. Harrison, Sr., class of 1925, Auburn University, born on a farm in Perry County, Alabama, educated in a one-room school house was noted for his hard work, tireless energy and commitment to his family and family-owned business of drug store sin Tuscaloosa, Alabama and whose first out-of-town store, Campus Drugs, purchased in 1967, located about one-half block from the main gate of Auburn University became an important and historical part of the company later named HARCO.

Mr. Harrison is remembered as a pharmacist who sacrificed and dedicated himself to build a strong pharmacy business, and whose philosophy embraced pride in having good prices, clean stores and helping customers quickly, kindly and efficiently and being a friend to the community, and whose family drug stores employed many Auburn pharmacy graduates and was voted “Best Community Drug Store Chain” in 1995.

The Harrison School of Pharmacy as a perpetual reminder of Mr. Harrison and his family’s significant contributions to Auburn University and to the profession of pharmacy in the State of Alabama.

Last Updated: February 7, 2018