Harris Pryor, of Maggie Valley, died at the Solace Center in Asheville after a long illness. He was 84 years old.
Harris was born in 1937 in Bat Cave, North Carolina. He is preceded in death by his parents, Berkley and Virginia Pryor, and 12 siblings. Harris is survived by his wife of 45 years, Nancy Holder Pryor; his son, Benjamin Harris Pryor, of Chapel Hill; his daughter, Amy Pryor, of Waynesville; his grandson, Ibai Buxens-Pryor, of Brooklyn, NY; and his brother, Floyd Pryor (and Norma), of Dana.
Harris received a B.A. from Western Carolina University in 1959, and in the same year was voted Western North Carolina Athlete of the Year. As a two-sport all-star in the 1950’s, he started for four seasons in basketball and baseball and was all-conference in both sports. The starting point guard, he averaged scoring in double figures each season, was all-conference twice and was on the all-tournament team three times. Harris led Western to its first North State Conference championship as the tournament’s MVP, and he was also named All-NAIA District 26. As a baseball star he earned a two-time all-conference selection, pitching to an 11-4 record with 12 complete games, additionally leading the team in hits and home runs. (He pitched all of those games in a row, including a double on Saturday.) Harris was recognized in a 1959 issue of Sports Illustrated for this achievement. The Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to draft him to play pro, but he decided finishing college was more important.
After graduation, he taught Biology and coached basketball, baseball, and golf, at Edneyville and Tuscola during a career that spanned more than 35 years. Over his lifetime as a coach and mentor, Harris influenced many men and women and led by example as a man committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Harris was deacon emeritus of Hazelwood Baptist Church and very active in church activities and initiatives. An avid golfer, he played and won many tournaments in the region, and still holds the record score at Maggie Valley Country Club. Coaching was Harris’ vocation, and he finished with a lifetime record of 413 basketball victories.
Coach Pryor was a friend to all, and he will be sorely missed by the people of Haywood County. His laugh was nearly as big as his heart, and everyone loved to hear him tell funny tales from his past. One of the funnier bits was when he was playing basketball with the Scouts in 8th grade and had forgotten his shoes; he borrowed his brother Tom’s and "flopped up and down the court," yet he managed to score 23 points. When he was proud he hadn’t forgotten them in the next game, Tom suggested he wear them again.
Another choice tale from the old days was when Harris was coaching at Edneyville and had just begun his career-long habit of carrying a towel as he paced back and forth at the bench. One of his players made a bad play and he chucked the towel over his head into the bleachers. You could hear a pin drop in the gym. The towel ended up landing on the head of one of his former teachers as a boy. Of course, she stayed stock still and didn’t dare to move. They won that game and he decided not to ever throw in the towel after that.
A celebration of Harris’ life will be held on October 2nd at 1pm at Hazelwood Baptist Church. There will be fellowship in the sanctuary afterwards, and masks are required for safety.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Haywood County School Foundation to support restoration of the Pisgah High School football field. HCSF, Harris Pryor/PHS Memorial Stadium, 1230 N Main St, Waynesville, NC 28786.
The care of Mr. Pryor has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Waynesville.