Keith G. Harrison

1994 / 1995

Keith G. Harrison of Holt, Michigan, was elected Commander-in-Chief of the National Organization of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) on August 13, 1994 at the 113th National Encampment in Lansing, Michigan. Brother Harrison's ascension represented the fourth Michiganian in the then 113-year history of the Order and the first in 46 years to serve in the Order's highest office. The three other Commanders-in-Chief from Michigan prior to 1994 were Marvin E. Hall (1892/1893), Urion W. Mackey (1944/1945) and Perle L. Fouch (1948/1949). Brother Harrison served as Commander-in-Chief until August 12, 1995. In 2010, he was interviewed by Michigan History Magazine.


In addition to serving as Commander-in-Chief, Brother Harrison has served the Order in several national capacities, including Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief, Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief, Patriotic Instructor, Membership-at-Large Coordinator, History Book Coordinator, and Council of Administration member. Within his native state of Michigan, he has served as Department Commander for three years, Senior Vice Commander for two years, Department Council Chair for two years, and Department Chief of Staff for seven years. He is a charter member of the Lansing-Sunfield Curtenius Guard Camp #17 , which he organized in 1983. Within his local camp, he has served as Camp Commander (three years), Camp Secretary (six years), Camp Treasurer (two years), and Camp Historian (four years). He has been a member of the Order since 1981 and a life member since 1986.

Since serving as Commander-in-Chief, Brother Harrison has continued to serve the Order as a member of the National Council of Administration (1995/96), Constitution and Regulations Committee (1996 - 1998 and 2004 to Present), National Signals Officer (2000 to 2002), National Webmaster (1998 to 2002), Backup National Webmaster (2002 to Present), Editor for 10 National Proceedings, and National Webmaster for the SUVCW's Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR) (1997 - Present). In 1999, he was awarded the Order's Meritorious Service Award and in 2001, he was awarded the Order's Cornelius F. Whitehouse Outstanding Brother Award.

Past Commander-in-Chief Harrison traces his ancestry to 45 Union Civil War soldiers. Forty of those soldiers served from Michigan and included 1 great great great grandfather, 3 great great grandfathers, 1 great great great grand uncle, 12 great great granduncles, and 28 cousins. The Michigan units in which his ancestors served included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 28th Volunteer Infantries; the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th and 11th Volunteer Cavalries; 1st Light Artillery, and 13th and 14th Batteries. The remaining five Union Civil War ancestors (1 great great granduncle and 4 cousins) served in the 60th United States Colored Troops and the 1st Colorado Volunteer Infantry, 15th United States Infantry, 3rd United States Artillery, and the Army of the Ohio (Major General Don Carolos Buell), respectively. The regiment with the greatest number of his ancestors was the 12th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, with 1 great great great grandfather, 2 great great grandfathers, 4 great great granduncles, and 1 cousin. The 12th Michigan went directly from Niles, Michigan, to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, two weeks before the Battle of Shiloh. During that battle, several of his relatives were captured. Companion Harrison also has one Confederate ancestor, Private James Brewster (3rd Cousin 4 times removed), who served with Company K, 11th Kentucky Cavalry, under General John Hunt Morgan (see List of Ancestors).

Brother Harrison has been a Civil War reenactor since 1982 and rose through the ranks. He remains a member and former Captain of the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company B., an honorary member of the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company K, 5th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company K and 14th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company A, 15th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company B, and a Major, periodically serving in the capacity of Chief of Staff or Assistant Adjutant General with the Cumberland Guard, a nationally recognized Civil War reenactment association. Within the SUVCW's Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR), he served as Brevet Brigadier General and Commanding Officer during 1996/97 and currently holds the rank of Major (Retired)in the SVR. He has participated in more than 550 reenactments, parades, livings histories, and ceremonies, and served innumerable times at reenactments as an infantry company commander, infantry battalion commander, and overall Union army commander. Major Harrison is very knowledgeable and well-practiced in Hardee (1855), Casey (1862), and Coppee (1862) Field Manuals, and highly competent in 1861-1865 U.S. Army company, battalion, brigade, and army-level infantry drill and tactics. He has participated in most of the national 125th - 145th anniversary Civil War battle reenactments and is beginning to now participate in the Civil War Sesquicentennial (150th) national reenactment events. Major Harrison's years and reputation within the 7th Michigan and the Cumberland Guard also resulted in he being commemorated in song:

        (Sung to the tune of Maryland, My Maryland)

        He sets up early Friday night - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        One of the first upon the site - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        He's drilled us all on how to fight,
        He's told us what's wrong and what's right,
        The smile comes from his beard so white- Harrison, Keith Harrison.

        He takes the role of staff chief - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        His soldiers have the golden leaf - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        Your knowledge is beyond belief,
        With cartridges between our teeth,
        We'll follow you, oh Major Keith - Harrison, Keith Harrison.

        When rain clouds cover up the sky - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        And shelter tents can't keep us dry - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        You make the boring times go by,
        And that is why we wonder why,
        You just can't help but like this guy - Harrison, Keith Harrison.

        To battle he will march along - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        With guiding words to make us strong - Harrison, Keith Harrison.
        If you're a farb and look all wrong,
        He'll make you feel like you belong,
        To you we sing this song - Harrison, Keith Harrison.

        Lyrics by Private Partz (Matt Merta).
        © 1994 Boomba Records.

Brother Harrison belongs to several historical, patriotic, and civic organizations, including the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), in which he served as National Commander-in-Chief from 2009 to 2011. He is only one of four Brothers to have served as the Commander-in-Chief of both the SUVCW and the MOLLUS; the other three being US Grant III, Gordon R. Bury, and Lowell V. Hammer). Within the Michigan Commandery of the MOLLUS, he served as Commander from 1986 to 2003 and is currently serving as the Registrar. He belongs to the Society of Mayflower Descendants; William Brewster Society; Society of Colonial Wars; Sons of the Revolution; Society of the War of 1812; Morgan's Men Association Inc.; Military Order of the World Wars; and Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels (Commissioned twice, once in 1988 and again in 2003). He is a member of the Masonic Lodge #252 of Okemos, Michigan and life member of the Civil War Research Lodge #1865 of Highland Springs, Virginia. He also serves as President of the Eaton Rapids, Michigan GAR Memorial Hall and Museum, Inc., as Treasurer of the state-affiliated Friends of Michigan History, Inc. and as Chair of the state-affiliated Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial History Partners, which is formally charged with the responsibility to assist the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission in the planning, promotion, and implementation of the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration in the state.

Brother Harrison is a 1968 graduate of Cassopolis (Michigan) High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree (1972) in fisheries and wildlife biology from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts degree (1974) in ecology from Western Michigan University. He is licensed as a Registered Sanitarian and as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist, and is nationally certified as a Senior Ecologist. His professional research and work have resulted in more than 100 publications addressing a wide variety of environmental, environmental health, natural history, and natural resources management topics. He has been published in local, state, national, and international societal scientific journals, authored a book on the Natural History of Cass County, Michigan (1979), and more recently, served as editor of three Michigan governmental publications on the State of Michigan's Environment (2003, 2005, and 2008).

He retired from Michigan state government in February 2005 after serving for 25 years. Prior to his state service, he had served as a Sanitarian with Cass County (Michigan) Health Department, Chief Environmental Planner with the Michiana Area Council of Governments, Environmental Programs Coordinator with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, and Senior Ecologist with an environmental engineering consulting company. During his state career, he served as a Public Health Consultant with the Department of Public Health, Senior Environmental Specialist with the Toxic Substance Control Commission, Environmental Affairs Manager for the Department of Corrections, Director of the Environmental Administration Division within the Department of Management and Budget, Director of the Office of Special Environmental Projects within the Department of Environmental Quality, Acting Director of the Office of the Great Lakes, and Executive Director of the Michigan Environmental Science Board. The latter two positions were gubernatorial appointments by then Michigan Governor John Engler. At one point in his career, he held the latter three state positions simultaneously. Upon his retirement, Mr. Harrison's public service career was acknowledged with tributes from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan State Senate, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the President and First Lady of the United States, George and Laura Bush. From 2005 - 2011, Mr. Harrison operated a small consulting firm, KGH Environmental PLC. He also served as a special federal employee on a subcommittee with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board during this time.

Brother Harrison has been married twice, his first marriage to Linda (Dodson) Harrison in 1976, and his second to Jean (Whitmer) Harrison in 1990. He has one son, Nathan Lewis Harrison, who is a life member of the Order. Brother Harrison's interest in history and genealogy peaked with the 1983 birth of his son, and ultimately resulted in his publication in 1989 of a 350-page genealogy entitled, The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison. This first book identified more than 150 families and 1,600 individuals. In 2008, he published a 648-page update entitled, The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison - Revisited Nineteen Years Later. The second book documents over 1,500 ancestral families and over 6,000 individuals. He currently is working on a book on the Civil War soldiers from Cass County, Michigan.

(May 2014)

Keith Harrison