Friday, April 16, 2021

Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Michael Harmon

The latest interview in the Ole Miss Retirees features University Police Department’s Michael Harmon. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.

Michael Harmon. Photo submitted.

Michael Harmon is always smiling, upbeat.  He is known for his athletic abilities, having been an outstanding athlete at Ole Miss with experience in the NFL.  But there’s so much more to know about him.  

Brown:  I understand you grew up in Kosciusko.  What was special about Kosciusko?  How did it shape your childhood?

Harmon:  Kosciusko was my birth city, which made it special to me.  I learned at an early age that hard work was the success for life challenges.  This was taught and preached to us by our dad, Clarence Harmon, Sr. and mother Lillie Matt Fletcher Harmon.  

Brown:  Please talk about your childhood, parents, and siblings.  

Harmon:  I grew up with 5 sisters and 3 brothers.  It was a big household.  My 5 sisters are:  Louise Harmon Tidwell, Ora Lee Harmon Gladney, Nadian Harmon Myrick, Flora Jean Harmon Hannah and Lillie Ann Harmon Cross. My brothers are Climmie Dee Harmon, Clarence Harmon, Jr., and Larry Harmon.  All 5 sisters were educators.  Larry worked 39 years at Tupelo High School as Head Baseball Coach and won two state titles.  He also served as an Assistant Football Coach and won a state title.  Larry played one year in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.   Climmie Dee worked 40 years at Luvel Dairy Products in Kosciusko.  Clarence was an educator and worked at several high schools.  He played six seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Washington Redskins and won the Super Bowl in 1983, beating Miami! 

My dad, Clarence Harmon, Sr., worked 28 years at Sheller Globe Corporation in Kosciusko.  Dad also was a sharecropper, growing cotton.  My mother was a housewife.  She paid all the bills and took care of all the inside stuff.  She took good care of us children.  Both parents lived into their 90’s.  All 9 children are still living.  

Brown:  What were you really into when you were a kid?

Harmon:  I was big into sports—football, basketball, baseball, and track.  I was also active and involved in church. I also played at being a police officer.  Making good grades was important to me.  

Brown:  When you were 5 years old and asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, how did you respond?

Harmon:  I would respond that I wanted to be a police officer, a pro athlete, or an educator.   Each one held great appeal to me.  

Brown:  What was your very first job?  How old were you?  Tell us how much you got paid and what your responsibilities were.  

Harmon:  In the summer of 1979 when I was 18, I worked at Luvel Dairy Products in Kosciusko.  I worked the “half-pint” machine and made $225 a week.  

Brown:  Talk about your high school experience.

Harmon:  I had a good experience in high school.  I dealt with many challenges and trials regarding race relations.  Our good football team brought the people together on Friday nights.  

Brown:  Did you have a curfew?

Harmon:  I did have a curfew.  It was 1 a.m., but I was always home way before curfew.  

Brown:  Talk about your very successful college football experience at Ole Miss and going on to the NFL.  

Michael Harmon – Ole Miss. Photo subbmitted.

Harmon:  I had a great time at Ole Miss.  I made many contacts and friendships for life.  We did not win as many games as we would have liked to, but it was still exciting.  The NFL was great!  I had a year with the New York Jets in 1983.  However, a neck injury forced me out after one year.  I’m still in the top 15 all-time receivers in Ole Miss history.  Not a bad record considering the talent that has played at Ole Miss.

Brown:  It appears that you have family members also interested in pursuing a college football experience.  Tell us how you may have influenced them.  

Harmon:  Yes, my son Korbin Mikell Harmon is a Defensive End for the University of Tennessee—Martin (UT—Martin) Skyhawks.  He was always with me at Ole Miss games growing up.  He graduated from UT—Martin in May 2020.  The student part comes before the athlete part!  Hence, student-athlete!  

Raven Simmone Harris, Korbin Harmon, Kajavia Harmon, Michael Harmon. Photo submitted.

Brown:  What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Harmon:  I would have to say to my 20-year-old self to always keep God first!  Always work hard, stay smart and always be willing to help others.  Most importantly, always take care of your family!

Brown:  What world events were significant to you growing up?

Harmon:  My father served in World War II.  Thankfully, he made it home safely.  In the 1940s, the world still did not treat him right.  The 911 tragedy shaped the policy views.  James Meredith broke the color barrier at Ole Miss in 1962.  And then, of course, Barack Obama was our first African American President.  All of these events were significant to me and clearly shaped my life growing up.

Clarence Harmon, Sr.  –  Michael’s father. Photo submitted.

Brown:  Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began?   Talk about the interview (who you met with, your impressions of campus, etc.).  

Harmon:  Ole Miss felt “homey” and friendly.  Even back then, Ole Miss was a lovely campus.  Head football Coach Steve Sloan was a positive influence on me and made me feel welcome and valued.  Tom Goode who was an offensive lineman, coach, and administrator from West Point, Mississippi, shaped my view as a football player.  Rose Jackson Flenorl was sort of a mom/mentor for me.  I was treated well.  There were not many racial issues at that time, but still there were some issues that we had to deal with.

Steve Sloan, former Ole Miss Head Football Coach – 1978-1982. Photo submitted.
Tom Goode. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Rose Jackson Flenorl. Photo submitted. 

Brown:  Who hired you?  How long did you work at Ole Miss?

Harmon:  I was hired by Chief Mike Stewart in August 1991.  I worked at Ole Miss for 25 years until April 2016 and achieved the rank of Captain.  

Brown:  Being in law enforcement on a college campus had to have its challenges.  Describe your most memorable days at work.  

Harmon:  There certainly were many challenges as a campus police officer, particularly on Friday nights doing Grove detail.  Guests as well as students could get into some ridiculous disputes over “real estate” during Grove set-ups.   Saturday home football games were also very challenging and brought many different scenarios that required calm along with some show of authority when necessary to prevent a situation from becoming out of control.  

Ole Miss hosted the first presidential debate on September 26, 2008, between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.  The logistics were complex, but it was quite a success—and certainly very memorable.  

A sad, yet very memorable day, was the death of Robert Langley on Oct. 21, 2006, while assisting with a traffic stop on Jackson Avenue near campus. He left behind a wife, two sons and two stepdaughters.  In addition to being a police officer, he had also served in Afghanistan.  He grew up in foster care and was a high school running back at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and also played running back at Delta State University.  He was always remembered as bringing people together.  His passing affected me very personally.  

 Officer Robert Langley pictured with wife, Lisa

Brown:  What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?  

Harmon:  I have several highlights of which I am very proud.  Helping with the Presidential Debate work schedule in 2008 was certainly a highlight for me.  

Being promoted to Captain of Patrol was another highlight for me along with being named “Mentor of the Year.”  I was also chosen to travel with the Ole Miss Rebels football team as Police Security from 2002-2015).  I had an outstanding career at Ole Miss of which I am very proud.  

Brown:  You have a second career since retiring from Ole Miss.  Please tell us about that.  What are your responsibilities and day-to-day routine?

Harmon:  After my retirement, I was recruited to be a car salesman at Cannon Nissan of Oxford.  We make sure our vehicles are clean and look good parked on our lot.  I underwent extensive training on car salesmanship.  There is emphasis on customer service and is reinforced daily by Mr. Michael Joe Cannon.  “Nobody beats a Cannon deal!  Nobody!”  

Michael Harmon with new car buyer Jo Inman. Photo submitted

Brown:  What is the most important life lesson for someone to learn?

Harmon:  Trust God—and your instincts!  Everyone is not your friend!  Do good and good will come back to you.  Nothing will be given to you—you must work hard for what you want out of life.  

Brown:  What do you need to rant about or get off your chest?

Harmon:  Some people will treat you badly, but once you speak up, they will get mad at you trying to make it seem like it’s your fault.   People lying to me when they know that I know they are lying!  Do not spit on me or steal from me!  I have no tolerance for rude, disrespectful behavior.  

Brown:  Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

Harmon:  I am most grateful for my wife, my two children, and 2 grandbabies.  I am a man most fortunate.  I am proud of my police career at Ole Miss.   I was very proud to be chosen “Mentor of the Year” twice.  

I always treat people with respect, and I don’t pre-judge people.  And I strive to keep God first—always!

Brown:  Looking back on your life, what have you done that has given you the most satisfaction?

Harmon:  Helping people gives me great satisfaction.  That is just part of who I am.  I enjoyed doing programs to help students stay out of trouble.  There are many opportunities for them to make the wrong choices and I tried to help them stay on the right path.  

Brown:  What do you do to improve your mood when you are in a bad mood?

Harmon:  Listening to music really improves my mood.  I enjoy gospel music and listening to the blues.  I also read my bible.  Lifting weights and getting active also helps to improve my mood.  

Brown:  Tell us something about yourself that not many people may know.  

Harmon:  I am really shy until I get used to be around you.  I really wish I could sing and play the piano.  Guess I’ll have to be content to just keep singing in the shower!

Brown:  What’s your definition of success?

Harmon:  Being happy and having a sense of pride in yourself is important.  Success is not measured by money.  Working toward leaving the world a better place is an indicator of your personal success but also inspires the future success of those who come later.  Having a positive impact and influence on young people’s lives.  

Brown:  In your opinion, what traits predict success in life?

Harmon:  Keeping God first, honesty, integrity, being dependable, having a good attitude, and being “coachable”are all traits predicting success in life.  

Brown:  Fill in this blank:  If I could snap my fingers and acquire an experience or talent, it would be . . .  

Harmon:  Singing! Playing piano!

Brown:  What are the most useful skills you have?  

 Harmon:  I am hard working, trustworthy, possess a positive attitude, and I have a calming effect on people—which is a very useful, important skill in law enforcement.  

Brown:  What are some skills that you think everyone should learn?

Harmon:  I believe that everyone should develop a good work ethic, maintain a positive attitude, be punctual, and think of others before yourself.  

Brown:  Do you have any hobbies?

Harmon:  I enjoy lifting weights, playing basketball, watching pro football, basketball, pro baseball.  I enjoy watching high school and college sports.  

Brown:  What would be your perfect weekend?

Harmon:  My perfect weekend would be getting away to someplace quiet with the wife.  We would see a movie, have a long walk on the beach, with wine chilling in our room.  

Kajavia and Michael Harmon

Brown:  What is your favorite vacation destination and why is it your favorite?

Harmon:  My favorite destination is Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It’s a perfect vacation destination.  My wife and I have been several times and always enjoy each trip.  Very relaxing and most enjoyable!  

Brown:  Who was the first band or musician you were really into? Do you still like them?

Harmon:  The Gap Band rose to fame during the 1970s and 1980s and consisted of three brothers Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson.  It was named after streets (Greenwood, Archer, and Pine) in the historic Greenwood neighborhood in the brothers’ hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  And yes, I still have their CDs.  I also saw the Jackson 5 in concert in Memphis.  

Brown:  What is your biggest time waster?

Harmon:  Things I can’t control!  I’ve had to learn that I cannot get upset with things I have no control over.  I also have a tendency to watch too much TV too!

Brown:  What story do you want people to tell about you?  What impact will you leave behind?

Harmon:  I want to be remembered for always giving my best and for being a hard worker.  I hope my legacy will also be for positively impacting my officers, the students, and the faculty and staff daily while at Ole Miss.  


Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. For questions or comments, email her at bbrown@olemiss.edu.

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