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Bishop Harris, First Black Football Coach at LSU, Dies at 82

by Michael Bonnette
Bishop Harris, First Black Football Coach at LSU, Dies at 82

BATON ROUGE – Bishop Harris, the first black football coach in LSU history, passed away on Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was 82.

Harris became LSU’s first black assistant football coach when he was hired by Bo Rein on December 12, 1979. Harris was later joined on the 1980 staff by Otis Washington as they became the first two black assistant football coaches in LSU history.

Harris served on Rein’s staff at North Carolina State for three years from 1977-79 before joining the head coach at LSU. Harris remained on staff after the tragic death of Rein, coaching for former Tiger Jerry Stovall for the duration of his time in Baton Rouge.

Harris coached the outside linebackers for the Tigers from 1980-83 developing some of the best players at that position in school history. Lyman White earned first-team All-SEC honors in 1980 and was picked in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft. Other players who developed under Harris and later when on to be selected in the NFL Draft include Tim Joiner, Rydell Malancon, and Gregg Dubroc.

After his departure from LSU, Harris spent the 1984-85 seasons at Notre Dame, followed by three years at Minnesota. He was named head coach at his alma mater North Carolina Central in 1991, serving there for two seasons.

Following his two years as head coach at North Carolina Central, Harris made the move to the NFL, where he spent the remainder of his career. He joined the Denver Broncos in 1993 as running backs coach for two seasons, followed by stops with the Oakland Raiders (1995-97), Buffalo Bills (1998-99), New York Jets (2001-04) and San Francisco 49ers (2005-07).

In the NFL, Harris coached future Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin with the New York Jets along with All-Pro Frank Gore with the 49ers.

Harris graduated from North Carolina Central in 1963 followed by a master’s degree from Duke in 1972.