William “Bill” Harrison has left an enormous legacy and footprint across EAA and Warbirds of America that speaks volumes about his nature, commitment to aviation, history, and people. While most people know of his singular role in creating EAA’s “Aluminum Overcast” B-17 tour program, fewer know and appreciate his leadership in the creation of Eagle Hangar, EAA Board governance, Warbird leadership and a host of areas in which his standards, dedication to training and indomitable spirit propelled EAA’s outreach and visibility throughout the warbird community and general aviation overall.
As a “Texan” it is not surprising that Bill always thought big. Born, raised and schooled in Waco, Texas, Bill headed “east” to Houston to attend Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, completing his general residency in orthopedic surgery at Baylor Hospital, and then at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He joined the Army as a surgeon and served as a Captain in the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. He completed his tour of duty with the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Sandia Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before settling down in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a skilled and noted orthopedic surgeon and practiced at all four of Tulsa’s hospitals until 1972 when he finished his fellowship in hand surgery. He practiced alone and then in partnership with others until the late 1990’s with ever increasing responsibilities as the Chief of Surgery, Chief of Orthopedics and Chief of Staff at St John Medical Center. At various times, he was President of the Tulsa Orthopedic Society and Clinical Associate Professor at both the University of Oklahoma Medical School and Oklahoma State Medical School. “Retiring” is not a word usually associated with Bill and indeed he continued to work as a physician through 2015 and remained a licensed physician until he died.