OBITUARY: Dr. Harold S. Pryor

Dr. Harold S. Pryor

Dr. Harold S. Pryor, founding President of Columbia State Community College, died Saturday, October 16, 2021 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. He was 101 years old.

Dr. Pryor was born October 3, 1920, in Overton County to the late Hubert S. and Ethel (Stockton) Pryor. A 1940 graduate of Livingston Academy, he earned a B.S. from Austin Peay University in 1946, an M.A. from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1947, and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1951. He served four years in the U.S. Army during WWII with tours of duty in England, France, and Germany.

He married LaRue Vaughn of Buchanan in June 1946, and they celebrated 62 years of marriage before her death on January 23, 2009. He was a long-time member of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia where he taught Sunday school and at one time served as a member of the Session.

Dr. Pryor’s career in teaching and administration in higher education spanned 38 years at Peabody College, East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Austin Peay, and Columbia State. After 16 years at Austin Peay as a professor and in various administrative positions in the School of Education, Dr. Pryor assumed the position as founding President of Columbia State Community College in February 1968.

During his 17-year presidency of Columbia State, Dr. Pryor provided the leadership to securely grow Tennessee’s first community college. He also contributed to the expansion of Tennessee’s community college system. Upon his retirement, the college’s administrative building was named and dedicated in his honor in 1986.

He established Visual Arts Endowment in 2001 at Columbia State when the college’s LaRue V. Pryor Art Gallery opened.

Dr. Pryor was a member of and served in leadership capacities in professional education organizations at the state and national levels, including the Tennessee College Association, which he served as president for one year. His numerous professional articles and scholarly works were published in journals and education publications. Periodically Dr. Pryor traveled abroad, serving as education consultant to foreign governments and educational institutions. He is listed in “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in American Education”.

Numerous community-based organizations also benefited from his active engagement and leadership. In Columbia, Dr. Pryor served as chairman of the Board of Public Utilities and was a member of the Board of Directors of First Farmers and Merchants Bank for 25 years.

He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Frank G. Clement Foundation in Dickson. He was also actively engaged in the United Way, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Mental Health Association, Kiwanis Clubs, and Chamber of Commerce.

Among his honors and awards were the Benefactors Society of the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor’s and Board’s awards for Excellence in Philanthropy, Outstanding Service Award from Austin Peay State University, Sarratt Society of Vanderbilt University, Kiwanis International Legion of Honor, and George E. Hixon Fellow awards.

In addition to his parents and his wife, Dr. Pryor was preceded in death by a sister, Clarice P. Elston. He is survived by a niece, Linn Ann Huntington of Hays, Kansas, and numerous cousins.

A private graveside service for family members only will take place at Polk Memorial Gardens at 10 a.m. Tuesday. A “Celebration of Life” memorial service will be conducted Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church with Rev. Steve Thomas officiating. The family will receive guests between 1 and 2 p.m. prior to the service.

Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 801 S. High Street, Columbia, Tennessee 38401 or the Columbia State Community College Art Gallery, 1665 Hampshire Pike, Columbia, Tennessee 38401. Notes of sympathy may be sent to

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