Seminole Scholars: Ishmael Harris, Vietnam War Veteran and Electrician

By: Brea Jones

Ishmael Harris (b. Aug. 1949)  grew up in a completely different Seminole County than what we see and know today. 

He grew up with segregated school systems causing him to attended Hopper Elementary and Crooms Academy – both all Black.  

During his time at Crooms, Harris joined the school band playing the sousaphone. By his senior year he earned the position of caption of the band and section leader over the tuba’s.

Harris recalls when schools begun to integrate the band was invited to travel to the University of Florida for the Gator Growl in 1966 – 1967. The band was also allowed to travel to Miami for the Florida classic. 

Harris graduated from Crooms in June of 1968 where shortly after he enlisted in the Marines on the Buddy plan with his friend Henry Howard Moore. 

Harris became a part of an all Black war troop called the Mau Mau’s which was included over  50 men. During his time in the service Harris was stationed at several locations. He traveled from Parris Island to North Carolina to California to Okinawa, Japan where he then spent 11 months and 20 days in Vietnam. 

During his last few days and his first trip to Vietnam, Harris’s platoon got shot down to where there were only nine men, including Harris, left alive. Following this tragic loss Harris and the remaining troop was sent to the Philippines, where they spent 20 days regrouping and recruiting new men. 

Harris became the first Black electrician hired at Florida Power and Light in Central Florida following his time in the war in January of 1971. 

Watch Harris’s story as he goes in detail about his journey through life.

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