Reasons for Naming
- First African American dean at the University of South Carolina
- Helped found African American studies program in 1971
- Established black fraternity chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha on campus
- Documented and preserved local and nationwide civil rights history
- The South Caroliniana Library holds his papers
Willie Lloyd Harriford Jr. (1935-2018)
By Melissa DeVelvis
Harriford was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on January 19, 1935, to Willie Harriford Sr. and Thelma Harriford. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in 1956. In 1957, Harriford became the first black archivist to work for a former president at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Shortly after beginning this position, he served in the United States Army in Taiwan from September 1958 to August 1959. He served in the 2nd Missile Battalion of the 71st Artillery and its supporting units, specifically the 178th Ordinance Detachment.
Harriford returned to the Truman Library in 1959, and he was promoted to supervisor for the Audio-Visual Department in 1966. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, Harriford became the archivist at the newly founded Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He became acting director of the Library-Documentation project, an initiative to collect materials for the King Center’s collection, in 1970, and also lectured at Atlanta University’s School of Library Services from 1969 to 1971.
In 1971, Harriford moved to Columbia to finish his master’s degree in history and joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina. He helped found the African American Studies Program (originally the Afro-American Studies Program) in 1971 and served as director for that program until 1986. In 1973, he successfully petitioned for a chapter of black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha at the university, and the Theta Nu chapter was founded on March 30. Harriford was the faculty sponsor.
Harriford became the first African American dean at South Carolina, eventually rising to the rank of associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. As an administrator and professor, Harriford also helped with student aid, signing off on work study jobs and writing letters of recommendation for qualified applicants to various jobs and higher education opportunities. The university’s Dean Willie Lloyd Harriford Endowed Chair in African American Studies is named in his honor.
After retiring from the university, he continued to teach as an adjunct at Benedict College and was a consultant for the South Carolina Department of Education. He traveled around the country interviewing veterans of the Civil Rights Movement and helped Benedict establish an institutional archive, directing the project from 1988 to 1990.
Harriford died on November 14, 2018 at the age of 83. He and his wife, Fosteen “Tina” Ward Harriford, (m. 1961) had three children: W.L. or Chip, Wendy Lynn, and Ward Langston.
Daprile, Lucas. “SC civil rights figure, Willie Lloyd Harriford Jr dies at 83.” The State. November 15, 2018.
“Biographical Note.” Willie L. Harriford Papers, South Caroliniana Library. Columbia, South Carolina.