Emma Louise McDonald Harrison was born on April 13, 1908 in Mexia, Texas. She grew up in a large family and was surrounded by a close community of inspiring friends and neighbors.
After she graduated from high school in Mexia, Harrison attended Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas. At the age of sixteen, after just one year in college, Harrison earned her teaching certificate and became a substitute teacher at her former high school. She met and married her husband while attending Paul Quinn College, then transferred to Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas where she graduated with her bachelor's degree. She worked as a teacher for ten years and as a supervisor of health and physical education for thirteen years. In 1951, Harrison was invited to organize the Health and Physical Education Department for Paul Quinn College.
Later, Harrison pursued coursework at New York University, the University of Southern California, and the University of Texas, where she was the first black woman to be admitted. She enrolled at Baylor University in 1965 and taught in the psychology department in 1968. She travelled all over the world and also studied at four universities in Scandinavia.
Harrison wrote seven books throughout her lifetime concerning a variety of subjects, including teaching techniques, her sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), and the relationship between God's love and community. She was a member of approximately 40 boards and committees throughout Waco, the state, and the nation. Harrison passed away on January 5, 2004.
More information about Emma Louise Harrison can be found at the Institute for Oral History and in the Emma Louise McDonald Harrison papers at The Texas Collection.