Mississippi Bill Harris

Mississippi Bill
All small towns have their local heroes. Guntersville, Alabama is no different. We have Mississippi Bill Harris. Bill was best know around these parts as the man who rode the rivers in his 12 foot aluminum boat he named Miss Lake Guntersville. All in all Bill clocked in over 47,000 miles traveling the rivers he loved.

Bill was born in 1912 here in Guntersville, Alabama. His Dad was a local Doctor and he had an older brother. During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic Bill's father died from the flu. He and his brother were split up and he lived with a cousin and his family.

When Bill was 12 he began working for the local theater. This was the beginning of long road with the theater. Later in his life Bill and his wife Dora owned the local theater in Guntersville they called the Lake Theater. They were well known to the locals and earned the nicknamed Mr. and Mrs. Entertainment. The Lake Theater played movies and hosted local concerts.

In 1933 Bill started working with TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). A dam was going to be built in Guntersville bringing hydroelectricity to the valley. Bill brought TVA engineers out to scout out the location of the Dam. Even after the Dam was built Bill would give tours of the newly formed lake.

During World War II Bill left the valley to fight for his country.

Bill loved the local rivers and after he retired he began to run the rivers in his 12 foot boat. Many of his trips included traveling the Mississippi River and that is how he got his nickname Mississippi Bill This was quite a feat Bill accomplished in small aluminum boat. His first trip was in 1967 from Guntersville Lake to Knoxville, Tennessee. His most famous trip was in 1968 which again began at Guntersville Lake and ended in New Orleans at the French Quarter. All in all he made 22 trips.

In 1986 Bill picked up the key to the city of Mobile. He announced that he was retiring. It was time to spend more time with his wife. He had traveled over 47,000 miles at that time. He was ready to dock the Miss Lake Guntersville. She would be spending the rest of her days at the Guntersville Museum. Bill was 74. Even after retiring Bill could not stay off the river and made three more trips before he died. He made a trip in 1987 and 1991. In 1997 he made his last trip to Chicago and Lake Michigan. He was 85 years old. Bill traveled a total of 55,000 miles in is lifetime. To put that in perspective 57,000 miles is over twice around the earth. That is a lot of miles in a small aluminum boat.

Being a local celebrity Bill became the regular Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade, riding in his boat and giving the children quarters. In the 1980's Guntersville even had a Bill Harris Day. Bill died in 2004.

If you are visiting Guntersville you may want to stop by the museum and Check out Miss Lake Guntersville and learn more about the travels of Mississippi Bill Harris.

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Posted by ES Team on 14 November, 2014 ES family, get outdoors, history | 0 comments
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