Archive for Friday, February 24, 2006

Haskell icon and longtime coach Scotty Harjo dies at 78

February 24, 2006


Haskell Indian Nations University has lost one of its dearest friends, Scotty Harjo.

"A generation has passed," said Phil Homeratha, women's basketball coach at Haskell. "There are no more Scotty Harjos. We'll never see another one like him."

Harjo, a longtime coach and residential assistant at Haskell, died Wednesday in Lawrence. He was 78.

"My father was a gentleman's gentleman," said Harjo's youngest son, John Scott Harjo. "It didn't matter if you met him for five minutes or if you knew him for 50 years, he had a positive influence on you. He was that kind of person."

At Haskell, Scotty Harjo was well-known for having fielded a fast-pitch softball team that both created and fed a sense of community at the school in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Back then, every small town had a team and Lawrence had a really good league," Homeratha said. "We played everybody."

He added: "Scotty was the team's core."

Harjo, a Seminole and Creek from Bowlegs, Okla., also was known for helping Haskell students adjust to life away from their families and their reservations.

"I came to Haskell in 1957. I was 14 years old," Homeratha said. "I was raised by my grandparents. They were good people, but I never had a father. And my reservation was poor - all reservations are poor.

Scotty Harjo

Scotty Harjo

"I'd say that for 90 percent of the students in my dorm, Haskell was the first place they'd lived that had running water indoors and electricity."

Harjo, he said, was quick to take students under his wing.

"He taught us how to grow up. He was a mentor, an adviser," Homeratha said. "He was like a member of your family. I came to see him as my father."

Harjo and his wife, Esther, often shared their home with Haskell students who had nowhere to go in the summer.

"I spent a summer with them, and they never charged me a thing," Homeratha said. "It wasn't because they didn't need the money; it was because they cared about me. They didn't want to burden me; they wanted me to be successful."

Homeratha's experience was not unique.

"Scotty was just a totally giving, caring person," said Jerry Tuckwin, a longtime coach at Haskell. "He always saw the potential for good in people, and he always tried to bring it out.

"If someone was in need, Scotty couldn't say no."

While in the U.S. Army, Harjo, a demolition expert, was awarded two Bronze Stars for his actions during the Korean War.

He often told the story of coming face to face with a Chinese soldier during a night patrol.

"This one guy had me dead to rights, but he hesitated," Harjo said during a 2001 interview. "He saw my skin color and probably asked himself, 'Is that one of our guys?' While he was thinking about that, one of our guys shot him."

Harjo later played football at Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla. The team won the national junior college championship in 1952.

Harjo joined the Haskell staff in 1957. He retired in 1994.

"Scotty Harjo will be missed," said Marvin Buzzard, vice president of university services at Haskell. "I'll never forget him."

Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Monday at the First Southern Baptist Church.


ryank4u2 12 years, 2 months ago

Hey Arminius, what a great story...

I attended Haskell when it was a JuCo and I will always remember Mr. Harjo and the other crew at OK Hall. It was because of Scotty that I enjoy the sports of Baseball & Softball. It was also because of him, I now know how to be a scorekeeper...he made me do it one day when Haskell had it's annual Softball Tourney for everyone on campus during the beginning of Spring. Defiantly, Good Times...

I must say, I am truly sad, but smile, when I think of all the good times I had at Haskell and at OK Hall. I would see Scotty occasionally around Lawrence and he always knew who I was 15 years later.

Thank You, Mr. Harjo and God Bless You...You Will Be Missed!!

kcwarpony 12 years, 2 months ago

A true friend to one and all. He will be missed. Thoughts and prayers to the family.

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