NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – At the end of each school year, Graham High School has three big titles it awards to students. It names a Class Favorite, a Best All-Around boy, and girl, and Mr. GHS. The whole school votes on that last one.
In 2016, Harrison Brown won all three.
He was handsome, and athletic. He could sing, play trumpet and guitar and act. He was an engineering student in high school who friends said also had an interest in medicine, after his father was diagnosed with ALS. He was the one teachers said they expected to see on TV one day.
Take all that away, and it is unlikely that a day after his sudden death on the UT-Austin campus, he would be remembered any less fondly in Graham.
Rarely has a high school of more than 700 students been more quiet, and somber. Dozens of them just didn’t show up Tuesday, according to Principal Joe Gordy.
But when the kids there talked about Brown though, they expressed how he was a genuine friend to the outcasts. He was the one to voice pride in his close friends’ accomplishments. He was the one, who even now… made them want to be better.
“It didn’t matter who you were,” said Bailee Green. “Everyone knew him and everyone loved him.”
Green was one of several students away at college who heard the news Monday, threw some clothes in a bag, and started driving home.
Rylee Zimmer, also back at her old high school Tuesday, said Brown was the kind of guy you drop everything for.
Ryan Karper, a junior at Graham High, counted the older Brown as his best friend. He admitted he never thought it was possible to hang out with the senior crowd. That wasn’t the kind of thing that mattered to Brown.
“If you were having a bad day, and you spent five minutes with Harrison, he would make it all better,” Karper said. “That’s what type of guy he was.”
When Joshua Kidd arrived in Graham from Lubbock as the new band director last year, it was Brown, who approached him before school even started. He introduced himself as one of the leaders, and threw himself into making sure Kidd had whatever he needed.
It was those interactions, Kidd said, he could see kids reflecting on all over campus.
“A lot of them are just remembering just that conversation in the hall, in passing, which stuck with them,” he said. “And I think that’s going to be a lasting impression for a lot of these kids.”
His engineering teacher, Michelle Lowrey, recalled a fundraiser in 2016 the community held for Kurt Brown, Harrison’s father, after he was diagnosed with ALS. At the end of the fundraiser she said, Harrison decided to donate his truck to the cause.
“What 18-year-old gives up his truck for his family?” she asked. “That just shows you the generosity and the character of this young man.”
Friends credited his parents. In a small town, everyone knows everyone. But they said when you went to the Brown’s you felt like you were part of their family.
If there were failures, or enemies, no one at the school who was close to Brown could recall them. He wasn’t the kind of guy they said, to ever acknowledge a setback anyway.
Even after his death, that trait carried on. His Facebook page turned into a memorial. A memorial fund on his GoFundMe site has garnered $100,000.
His Instagram account was still public, filled with only smiling pictures of himself, friends and family.
The bio on that latter reads “I did it and now I won.”