Obituary for Robert L. Harriford Sr.
The late Robert L. Harriford has received praise as a pioneer in education and as a man who dedicated his life to helping children.
Harriford, 82, died Wednesday at Western Baptist Hospital.
He was the first African-American to serve on the Paducah Board of Education and volunteered his time with many youth organizations, including the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club and in youth baseball.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. James CME Church in Paducah. Visitation will be at the church from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Additional information will be announced later. Pettus-Rowland Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
Harriford served on the school board from Nov. 11, 1969, until he retired at the end of his fifth term in 1988.
“Robert Harriford was one of those board members who made every decision based on what was right for the kids,” said Dr. Larry Allen, Paducah school superintendent when Harriford retired. “If it wasn’t right for the kids, he said we didn’t need to do it.”
The soft-spoken Harriford was always willing to search for a compromise when there were disagreements, Allen said.
“He could have been an obstructionist, but he wasn’t,” Allen said. “He was always willing to sit down and work out a disagreement without being hostile.”
The Rev. W.G. Harvey said Harriford left a legacy for the community.
“He was a great person for the entire community, regardless of race, creed or color,” Harvey said. “He was interested in civil rights, but he was more interested in what was right for the community.”
He also said Harriford, who had six children, was a God-fearing family man who was active in his church.
Harriford owned and operated Harriford Reproductions, a firm specializing in printing, engraving and copying. In 1980, the Duchess Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association named him “Boss of the Year.”
He also served on the Forest Hills housing board, was a former director of the Kentucky School Boards Association, served on the state Task Force for Adult Education, was a member of the Foster Parents Association and was a director for Barkley State Boy’s Camp.
He often joked about the size of his family: “When people ask me how many children I have, I always tell them 13 boys on the baseball team, 43 at boys camp and six at home. That gives me more than 70 children.”
He was a native of Metcalfe County and a graduate of the former West Kentucky State Vocational-Technical School in Paducah.