By CBF Foundation
Little Sophie Harris was heartbroken when she was not selected to be Mary, mother of Jesus, in her church’s children’s Christmas program. So her dad wrote a story about a little girl who was chosen to be an angel. It was the beginning of sharing stories and life lessons that would lead to a profound work.
John and Sophie Harris are a dynamic father-daughter team. They are also the author-illustrators of Mr. Tuck and the 13 Heroes. They have been selected by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Foundation board of trustees to receive the Award of Excellence for Generous Giving at the annual meeting of the CBF Heritage Society during the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta, Ga., June 26-30. “John and Sophie Harris join a distinguished group of Fellowship Baptists recognized by the CBF Foundation who have made significant contributions to the CBF community and beyond,” said Foundation Board Chairman Robert Prator.
John Harris, a mathematics professor at Furman University, and his daughter, Sophie, a student at Furman, teamed up to publish a book that is having significant impact in conversations about race relations.
Harris tells the powerful true story about a difficult and violent time in American history. Even though the Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that it was against the law to segregate students, it was not until 1966 that Henry County in Georgia responded. Under a court order to integrate, the county decided to “let it happen in just one school.” The chosen school was Fairview Elementary because Brooks Tuck, the principal, willingly volunteered for his school to integrate. In the process, Tuck and his family endured protests, threats of violence and a bomb scare.
The families of 13 children had wanted their sons and daughters to have a better school. Their existing schools had broken desks, old textbooks with missing pages and were in general disrepair. On the first day of integration, Mr. Tuck walked past hundreds of angry people lining the school sidewalk. He stepped onto the bus and welcomed the 13 children. “This is your school and I am your principal. We’re going to get through this together,” he said. Mr. Tuck then escorted the first student safely into the school, locked the door and went back to the bus to escort the next student. He carried some frightened students in his arms. The story continues into the adult life of one of those students.
Richard Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former governor of South Carolina, calls their work, “a tender children’s book about a very difficult time in education.” The book tells the story of the formidable challenge and undaunted courage of an elementary school principal involved in the integration of his small school in Georgia. According to educator Florence Lyons of Albany State University, the book provides an effective and positive model for interracial relationships in literature.
The Harris family calls First Baptist Church, Greenville, S.C., their church home. They represent three generations of active engagement with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A book signing hosted by Baptists Today and the CBF Foundation will feature the Harris duo during the General Assembly in Atlanta.
Register to attend the 2017 CBF General Assembly in Atlanta June 26-30 at www.cbf.net/assembly.