History's Voice: Dr. Lee S. Harford, Jr., 1951-2014

March 20, 2014


Lee S. Harford, Jr., Ph.D., the Director of History for the U.S. Army Reserve, right, and Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Army Reserve Command commanding general, discuss the history of the citizen-soldier in front of a picture of John Parker, who commanded the militia at Lexington where the Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775 at the USARC headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 5, 2012.  Harford, 62, passed away March 14, 2014, after a sudden and brief illness in Fayetteville, N.C. He was the first and only director of Army Reserve history holding the position since 1992. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Merritt Phillips/Released)

​Story by Timothy Hale
U.S. Army Reserve Command

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – As the last note of Amazing Grace echoed from the bagpiper outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church, here, March 19, friends, co-workers, and family gathered inside to pay their final
respects to Lee S. Harford, Jr., Ph.D.
Harford, 62, passed away after a sudden and brief illness having served as the first Director of History for the U.S. Army Reserve starting in March 1992.
“He could make history real, today, and apply the lessons of the past to the challenges that we experience, right now, in our Army and our nation,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief, U.S. Army Reserve
and U.S. Army Reserve Command commanding general. “He made it real for me and that’s what was important.”
Talley said it was Harford’s ability to teach history that made it easy to learn.
“I wanted to learn from him and he was eager to teach me,” Talley said.
His fellow history colleagues described Harford as enthusiastic when it came to history and a man who paid attention to the little details in order to bring history to life.
“When I first met him in 1991, he brought a great deal of enthusiasm for history. You could always count on him to do more,” said Dr. Richard Stewart, U.S. Army chief historian.
“He created the Army Reserve history program, creating history offices in the field (regional support commands) and a special history shop within the U.S. Army Reserve Command.”
Stewart said it was Harford’s commitment to Army history that allowed him to show how the past affects today’s Soldiers through living histories and staff rides.
Chris Kowlakowski, the director of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Va., knows this commitment all too well.
Harford hired Kowlakowski in Nov. 2008 to be the chief curator of the National Museum of the Army Reserve when USARC was based at Fort McPherson, Ga.
“He was a real scholar,” Kowlakowski said. “He was conversed in many different eras of history. He loved the subject and he loved teaching. When we were in Georgia, he was an adjunct professor teaching
history. I learned a lot from him, both from a professional and historical aspect.”
Kowlakowski feels that one of Harford’s biggest contributions to Army and Army Reserve history is the training of combat historians.
“He had been teaching the combat historian course for about five years at the Catoosa Training Center and later when it moved to Fort Knox, Ky.,” Kowlakowski said.
“They learned how to go out in field and collect all of the documents, artifacts, and raw materials to write the history of the current conflicts,” he said.
One of those combat historians trained by Harford is Chad Rogers. Now medically retired, Rogers deployed to Iraq (2010-2011) with the 322nd Military History Detachment from Birmingham, Ala.
Rogers, who is now working on his Masters degree in Museums and History at Tusculum College, Greenville, Tenn., said it was Harford who taught him about the integrity of the work – following along with the
same Army value.
“He tried to get us away from the ‘history is written by the victors’ mentality and get us to the realities of what actually took place in any given operation,” Rogers said. “It wasn’t about making a
particular unit look good on paper, it was about telling what really happened.”
During his time training with Harford, Rogers said he also learned how to be a researcher and an archivist to examine how history relates to the present day. He added that Harford’s love for history could be
“He was enthusiastic about history. As a historian, you have to live in the past,” Rogers said.
It was this commitment and passion to bringing the past forward to the present that set him apart from his peers, said Stephen Harlan, 99th Regional Support Command historian.
“He elevated the role of combat historians to be value-added in theater,” said Harlan, who is also a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 314th Public Affairs Operation Center.
Harlan said that Harford made sure the combat historian teams had the right people for the right jobs.
“He stood on the soap box and was our bullhorn with senior leaders to show the value of military history,” Harlan said.
Stewart, Kowlakowski, Rogers, and Harlan agreed it was Harford’s devotion to military history and his determination to share that history is what set him apart from his peers
“He devoted himself for 20 years to the history program,” Stewart said. “Win, lose, or draw, he was a forceful advocate for the Army Reserve history program.”
Throughout his career, Harford taught U.S. History, world civilizations history and military history courses at the United States Military Academy, the Virginia Military Institute, the Georgia Military
College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, educating more than 3,000 college students in history. He also served as the Command Historian of the U.S. Army ROTC Cadet Command at Fort Monroe.
He graduated from Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey, before enrolling at Norwich University in Vermont, where he successfully completed ROTC. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in history and
commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1974.
Harford served eight years on active duty in Virginia, Germany and Kansas, before leaving the service to complete his Master of Arts in military history at Kansas State University and his doctor of
philosophy from Florida State University.
Harford continued to serve the Army as a Reserve officer with special skill identifier 5X (Historian) in mobilization designee positions. In 1996, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as the Army Component
Command Historian.
His passion for history led him to join several prestigious societies to include the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Confederation of
Union Generals, the North Carolina Society, Sons of the American Revolution, the North Carolina Society, Sons of the Revolution, the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York, and the Fayetteville
Independent Light Infantry.
Harford, who retired in 2002 from the Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel, will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, Annette of Fayetteville; father, Lee, of Palmyra, N.J.; son, Markus and his wife, Alex, and their children, Grant and Sofia, of Suisun City, Calif.; sons, Christian and Andrew of
Biberach, Germany; brother, Robin of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and sister, Anne Graeff of Palmyra, N.J.
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