I am an Elk - Meet Harold Tillman
When it's Friday night, you are sure to find him volunteering somewhere.
Harold Tillman, Jr has always had a sense of obligation to his community. His journey from childhood to the present has been filled with many examples of giving back, and as an Elk, he feels that now will be the greatest reflection of his passion for doing for others.
The oldest of two children born to Harold Tillman, Sr., and Sheila Tillman, Harold was raised on the east side of Pascagoula, Mississippi in what is known in the community as Bayou Cassotte. He attended primary school at Fair Elementary where he played on his first football team, the Falcons, as a center and linebacker. At Colmer Junior High School, Harold moved to middle linebacker and fullback for the Cougars as they were known then. Once at Pascagoula High School, he played defensive end, but only through the 11th grade. “I was five foot something and the guys competing for that spot were over six feet,” Harold explains as to why he hung up his cleats. But only as a player.
From about the ninth grade, Harold worked for Jerry Lee’s Grocery on Ingalls Ave, “I was one of Jerry’s kids,” he laughs. But during the summers, he would often work with his grandfather, Captain Blackie Tillman aboard the shrimp boat the Amanda Marie. “I’ve shrimped from Alabama to Louisiana. I loved pulling up to the marshes around 2:00 in the afternoon and fishing for alligator gar,” he remembers.
When Harold graduated from high school in 1987, he began coaching pee wee football for the Pascagoula Youth Football League by that next season. He also began coaching girls’ softball. And while he worked in different places to support his coaching habit, Harold says, “I didn’t know what direction to go in and I floundered for a bit.” His father Harold Sr. had been in the Mississippi Army National Guard and his uncle, Chuck Ard, had been in the Army. Harold had choices to make. He did well on the ASVAB and was recruited by multiple branches. Ultimately, he chose the United States Airforce, as he explains, “I did it for no other reason than to serve my country.”
He attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base located in San Antonio, Texas. His contract was for law enforcement, but the Air Force had different plans for him, and Harold was tasked with becoming a cardiopulmonary lab specialist. “I couldn’t spell it much less know what it was,” he says. But after a stint at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, Harold completed Phase I and got a surprise. Phase 2 of his training would occur at Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi just minutes from home. Although Harold volunteered to go overseas during the First Gulf War, he ended up finishing his enlistment at Keesler’s Medical Center.