Joseph William Harrison

Joseph William Harrison,  of Attica, IN, passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 2, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 79. Senator Harrison, represented Indiana's 23rd District for 40 years, spent the majority of his life serving the community in which he was raised.


Senator Harrison was born in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 10, 1931. He graduated from Attica High School in 1949. After graduation, he attended Purdue University, and in 1952, left Purdue to attend the United States Naval Academy. During his senior year, he was the captain of the Navy track team, and was inducted into the Naval Academy Sports Hall of Fame. Senator Harrison graduated from Annapolis in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree and served aboard the Battleship USS Iowa. After graduating in 1957 from the United States Naval Intelligence Post Graduate School, he served in active duty with the Office of Naval Intelligence at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.


In 1956, Senator Harrison was married to Ann Gillespie of Williamsport. In 1960, Senator Harrison returned with his wife from Washington to Attica, where they raised their six children. He was a member of the Attica First United Methodist Church, American Legion, Elks, Eagles, Wabash Valley Association, and was a former J.C.  An "engineer by trade," Senator Harrison took the position of Vice President of Harrison Steel Castings Company, an Attica business founded by his grandfather in 1906. Like his father Roy Harrison before him, Senator Harrison spent much of his time at Harrison Steel rolling up his sleeves and proudly wearing the yellow hard hat of the foundry man rather than the white hat of the engineer.  During the early 1960's, he served as a member and president of the Attica School Board. In 1966, Joe Bill was elected to the Indiana State Senate where he served with distinction for 40 years. He was the Senate Majority Leader for 25 years, and assumed Emeritus status in 2005 until he retired from the Senate in 2006. During his tenure in the Senate, Harrison held numerous leadership positions including chairing the Senate Committees for Labor & Pensions; Finance; Public Health, Welfare and Pensions; and Labor.  Senator Harrison authored and sponsored a variety of bills regarding teacher and public employee pensions, and was extremely active in labor legislation.


In the Senate, Senator Harrison earned a reputation for championing Indiana businesses, large and small. In 1986, Senator Harrison authored landmark legislation protecting Indiana corporations from hostile takeovers. Although the constitutionality of the law was challenged, it was ultimately upheld by the United States Supreme Court, and became a model for similar legislation in at least 35 other states. While serving in the Senate, Harrison received numerous honors for his commitment to his constituents and the State of Indiana. These honors included the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honorary award bestowed by the Governor of Indiana. Senator Harrison was also commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor John Y. Brown, Jr., and in 1989 received the National Republican Legislator of the Year Award. In 1991, Senator Harrison received the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Government Leader of the Year Award, and the National Federation of Independent Business "Guardian of Small Business" Award. In 2001, Senator Harrison was the inaugural recipient of The Joseph W. Harrison Legislative Service Award by the Indiana Manufacturers Association, which honored "his dedication and service to his constituents and the business communities of Indiana." In 2006, Senator Harrison received the Indiana Professional Firefighters Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also a member and past President of the Columbia Club.Senator Harrison retired from the Senate in 2006 as the longest sitting Senator in Indiana history, and devoted his last years to his family.


In addition to his wife Ann, Senator Harrison is survived by his children: Holly Harrison  (husband Andrew Neal) of Chicago, Illinois; Tracy Harrison (husband Victor Peterson) of Lawrence, Kansas; Thomas Harrison (wife Christy Harrison) of West Lafayette, Indiana; Amy Harrison (husband Jeff Elston) of Phoenix, Arizona; Kitty Harrison (husband Peter Griffin) of Chicago, Illinois; and Christy Schaefer (husband Frank Schaefer) of Lombard, Illinois; and by 13 grandchildren Harry, Sam, Jack, Joe and Mary Neal; Reid and Royce Harrison; Stella, James and Amelia Griffin; and Peyton, Sawyer