Community mourns senseless death of Harrison Brown
He could sing. And juggle. Play trumpet. Run track. He was so admired and active, he won a scholarship his senior year for being the “All-Around Boy.”
But on Monday, his highly promising young life came to a senseless end, on the campus of his beloved University of Texas at Austin, leaving the entire Graham community reeling.
Harrison Brown, a 2016 graduate of Graham High School and the son of Dr. Kurt Brown and wife, Lori, died from his injuries during the May 1 stabbing spree by a fellow student on the UT campus that also injured three other male students.
The news that Brown, 19, of was killed in the attack by biology major Kendrex J. White, 21, reached Graham by early evening. By 6 p.m., Graham ISD confirmed Brown’s death on its Facebook page.
“The news of Harrison Brown’s (GHS Class of 2016) passing is heartbreaking,” the post read. “There are no words adequate enough to express the sorrow felt by Graham ISD and the community of Graham for this loss. Harrison was an inspiration to everyone around him. We were blessed and honored to have known him.”
Reaction to Brown’s death rocked not only his large, extended family, but Graham ISD. Counselors and youth ministers were at the high school Tuesday. In the band hall first thing that morning, school officials and community leaders were on hand to simply let students feel their grief.
GISD students were asked to wear orange – UT’s school color – in Brown’s honor. The GHS Student Council held a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Newton Field.
Brown was enchanted by UT, tweeting on Aug. 20, “I’m in love with this campus and the people…” He was in a fraternity there and joined an a cappella singing group as well.
Music was big in his life at GHS, where he was in the choir and Rompin Stompin Big Blue Band, which posted on its Facebook page about the death.
“Though many of you have heard by now, it is with great sadness that we pass along the news of Harrison Brown’s passing,” the page stated. “He was taken from us in a senseless act of violence on the University of Texas campus earlier today. In the morning, we will visit at the beginning of first period. Following that, we will rehearse, as it is a fitting honor to his memory. Music and our bond as musicians is something that cannot be taken away and has an enormous ability to comfort and heal. Hold our RSB3 family close. Your directors love you more than you can imagine.”
Brown was involved in most everything in high school. He was involved in track since seventh grade, played football in eighth grade, performed in the One Act Play in 2014-15 as a junior (Grease, We All Fall Down, Picnic), and ran cross-country as a sophomore, junior and senior. The Heart Award was presented to him during the 2015-16 Sports Banquet.
He was frequently on the honor roll, and in 2014, a member of student council. Brown was an escort and performer in the All-American Girl pageant in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
In his senior year, he received a huge number of scholarships: Ed Graham III, UT Memorial Scholarship, Edgar Scholarship, Young County Bar Association Scholarship, Graham Savings Scholarship, Agnes C. & Paul K. Deats Memorial Scholarship, J.D. Burke Scholarship, Graham Noon Lions PK Relays Scholarship, Kiwanis Club Scholarship, Class of 1966 Scholarship, First State Bank Scholarship, First Presbyterian/ Peggy & Joe McKinley Scholarship, Helen F. Hawkins Scholarship, G.H.S. Thespian Club Scholarship, Amber Lindley Memorial Scholarship, NCTC Foundation Scholarship, Young County Democrats Scholarship, S.H.A.R.E. Scholarship, and Best All-Around Boy.
‘The nicest person’
Brown wasn’t just busy, he was a good man, friends said.
Catlin Lewis said she’d known Brown “since we were kids.”
“But we didn’t become really good friends until high school,” she said. “We were in band together, in One Act Play together, went to prom together … He was very special to me. We became really close in high school, especially with all the extracurricular activities we did together.”
She heard of Brown’s death after “all of my high school friends were blowing up my phone, saying Harrison was involved in the stabbing…”
Lewis, who graduated in the same class as Brown, is now a student at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. She said he seemed to be heading to success at UT.
“He was accomplishing things that made his parents really proud,” Lewis said. “I don’t think he ever mentioned another college he was going to, he was always wearing his burnt orange everywhere.”
Most of all, Lewis said, it was Brown’s personality that won people over.
“Everybody keeps saying how nice he was to everyone, and he was,” she said. “He went through a lot his senior year, more than any person should have to do, yet he still made everyone smile … He always looked at the bright side of things.
Mazzy Miller, a Graham homeschooled senior, said she’d known Brown “as a friend for three or four years, as an acquaintance probably my whole life.”
“He was the nicest person I’ve ever known, always smiling, always happy,” Miller said. “He was just great all around.”
Lewis agreed that Brown’s spirit was amazing.
“We were in a play together, my favorite thing he said was, ‘we all fall down, it’s getting up that the hard part’ … The first thing I thought (Monday) was, he fell down a lot but you could never tell because he didn’t let things he couldn’t control ruin him, unlike a lot of people. He had a lot of patience and love for life, no matter how hard it was for him.”
Harrison Brown is survived by his parents, Dr. Kurt and Lori Brown, of Graham, a brother, John Brown, and many other relatives and friends. The family had not arranged services as of presstime Tuesday.
UT President Gregory Fenves spoke at length about Brown yesterday during a press conference.
“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the Brown family,” Fenves said. “Earlier this morning I met with Harrison’s mother, Mrs. Lori Brown and Harrison’s brother, John, who was a recent graduate of UT. It was an incredibly difficult time for them, unimaginable. Mrs. Brown talked about her Harrison and how much he loved being a Longhorn and his first year here.”
Fenves added that Brown was a student in the school of undergraduate studies, “and like many students, trying to decide what path he wanted to follow in his life.”
“He was interested in the College of Liberal Arts and maybe an economics major, but his brother John told me that he really wanted to follow his passion of music,” Fenves said. “He was a talented musician and was interested in being a student in our Butler School of Music.”
UT students are planning a memorial gathering later this week and at that time will darken the UT tower in Brown’s honor.
“His family and our community will never be able to hear Harrison play and sing again,” Fenves said, “and for this our hearts are breaking and we are deeply, deeply saddened.”