Laurence E. Harrison, 70, teacher and sports referee


Laurence Edward "Stringbean" Harrison, a retired mathematics teacher and sports referee, died Sunday at Sinai Hospital of a genetic disorder of the central nervous system. The Upper Park Heights resident was 70.

Born and educated in Reidsville, N.C., he earned a basketball scholarship at what is now Winston-Salem State University. The college coach remarked that his 6-foot-6-inch player was as slender as a string bean - and from that point on, Mr. Harrison was known as Stringbean to family and friends.

"In addition to being an outstanding center on the basketball team, my father was also a standout track athlete, with the highlight of his track career being a jump of 6 feet, 7 3/4 inches to tie for second in high jump at the Penn Relays in 1955," said his daughter. Cheryl Harrison, a University of Maryland, College Park associate director of athletics, who lives in Silver Spring.

In track, she said, her father received a second nickname: "Nature Boy" because he jumped in his bare feet.

After college, Mr. Harrison taught and was a basketball coach in the Elizabeth City and Durham, N.C., public schools before moving to Baltimore in 1964.

He taught mathematics at Harlem Park, Calverton and Lombard junior high schools before retiring in 1991.

Mr. Harrison was an avid sportsman. He followed the Baltimore Colts and was a ticket-taker for many years at Memorial Stadium.

"For the past 10 years, he wore his Ravens' purple proudly," said his daughter, who noted he also followed the Orioles and the Maryland Terps.

Described by his children as a passionate golfer, Mr. Harrison devoted many years to perfecting his game. He was the co-founder of the Paragon Golf Association, a group whose members played at Clifton Park. He also helped set up the Paragon Junior Golf Club for students interested in playing golf and attending college.

For more than 30 years, he was a basketball referee. In recognition of his service, Mr. Harrison was inducted into the Officials Hall of Fame of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1991, and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 1994. He was also inducted into the Winston-Salem State University C. E. "Bighouse" Gaines Hall of Fame in August.

In 1989, Mr. Harrison was diagnosed with Machado-Joseph disease, a rare genetic disorder of the central nervous system. As the disease progressed, Mr. Harrison retired from teaching and officiating.

"Although limited physically, he continued to be very much involved in the lives of his family and friends," his daughter said.

Mr. Harrison was a past president and official of the Baltimore Chapter of the Winston-Salem State University National Alumni Association. In May 1977, he was recognized by the institution "for continuous support, dedication and service."

He enjoyed attending family activities and sporting events, and playing dominoes and cards. In recent years, Mr. Harrison played cards with golfing friends at the Carroll Park golf course.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Rising Sun First Baptist Church, 2211 Saint Lukes Lane, Lochearn, where he was an usher and longtime member.

Survivors also include his wife of 48 years, the former Edith Scott; another daughter, Tori Harrison, of Lawrenceville, N.J., who is the women's basketball coach at Rider University; a sister, Anna Price of Reidsville; and a granddaughter. A son, Laurence E. Harrison Jr., died in 2003.

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