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‘I’m Mr. William Larsha ... I will be teaching you ...’

  • Written by Tony Jones

williamlarsha-1Mr. William Larsha Sr. was a walking library of love on fire to find, create, shape and disseminate information to help, strengthen and bolster the opportunities of the African-American community. To call him a political activist doesn't do him justice. The man had many ways to lead you to consider and challenge your own thoughts and viewpoints.

I can proudly say this because in my own quest to try to write something that would be one day useful for others, Mr. Larsha was perhaps the first living influence upon my goals. I will never forget the moment I met him. To this very day, I model my teaching time with my nephews in the same manner he taught my classmates and I.

We were at Longview Jr. High, in seventh grade. It was the first year we passed classes, where you went from one subject to another. Right after lunch, we were assigned to Mr. Larsha. Wham! On that very first day we were hit with the truth of fresh air.

"I'm Mr. William Larsha, and I will be your social studies and American history teacher," I recall him saying.

"You will come to class with a sharp attitude and ready to learn. You will be expected to keep notes and to be on time with your homework. Every class period, I will be teaching you about the laws and history that created the United States. The first half of the class will be devoted to teaching you what the state requires; then we're going to learn about the truth."


william-larshaI think often of what Mr. Larsha said and meant; and about what he taught us: Question. Find the truth behind the facts. Know that you are valuable, but back up your opinion with research. Question me, if you think I'm wrong. Prove me wrong.

Before the year was out, a lot of us joined dozens of others who ran in and out of his classroom before and after class, between periods and after school seeking clarity to the confusing aspects of life.

We rediscovered each other later in life when I became a reporter at the Tri-State Defender in the 90s. Mr. Larsha had long been an activist and member of the Shelby County Democratic Party's executive committee and he never failed to call me if he thought I was in error.

The charm and warmth of his spirit never failed, even when he was angered. The last time I saw him was at the unveiling of the portrait of former Memphis mayor Dr. Willie. W. Herenton. He could only whisper, telling me in detail close to my ear of the latest paper he had just finished and would like for me to see.

Job well done my friend! Truly, well done.

William Larsha Sr.

Born: Atlanta, Ga., March 20, 1924 to Ann and Maddox Larsha, who raised him in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Died: Sept. 29, 2012.

Education: B.S. in Social Science, North Carolina AT&T University; Master's Degree in Education, University of Memphis.

Military: U.S. Marine Corps.

Family: He leaves his wife of 53 years, Audrey Rogers Larsha; two daughters, Rochelle R. Pirtle and Katherine A. Larsha; one son, William M. Larsha Jr. (April Thompson Larsha); two grandchildren, Alonzo S. Pirtle and Audrey R. Pirtle; two great-grandsons, Ashton Jordan and Ethan Noah Brown; a sister, Betty E. Larsha; a brother, Maddox Larsha Jr.; a sister-in-law, Rutha Pegues; a brother-in-law, Willie James Rogers; a special daughter, Sharon Williams.

Career: Teacher. Served six terms on the Memphis Education Association's Board of Directors. Political columnist and commentator, including 30 years for the Tri-State Defender.

Civic engagement: Included his participation as one of the founders of the Open People's Convention that led to victory for Dr. Willie.W. Herenton, the first African American elected mayor of Memphis.


0 #1 Stuart G. Hall 2013-01-14 11:54
I've converted an audio taped interview with William Larsha I made back in 1997 (about Jacqueline Smith's sidewalk protest) into a mp3 file.

It can be found on my blog at http://www.stuart-hall.com/2006/01/31/my-life-with-martin-luther-king-jr/ - just scroll down to - Play 1. William Larsha interview - and click to play.

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