March 12, 2004 - Gadsden County Times: Richard Harris and Henry Rollins spent two years together in the Peace Corps in Morocco

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: March 12, 2004 - Gadsden County Times: Richard Harris and Henry Rollins spent two years together in the Peace Corps in Morocco

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 7:50 pm: Edit Post

Richard Harris and Henry Rollins spent two years together in the Peace Corps in Morocco

Richard Harris and Henry Rollins spent two years together in the Peace Corps in Morocco

Friends share Peace Corp. memories


Byron Spires

Respond to this story

Email this story to a friend

Caption: Richard Harris, left and Henry Rollins spent two years together in the Peace Corp.

It would be an age of new ideas, the Camelot years some would say, the time when a young President John F. Kennedy would challenge a nation to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

A call that would not fall on deaf ears. It would be that call that sparked Henry Rollins, a local young fellow, to take President Kennedy’s challenge.

Rollins had just finished Florida State University with a degree in Political Science when an article about Kennedy’s Peace Corps caught his eye.

"They had an open recruiting office at FSU and I went in and picked up an application," Rollins said.

President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in March of 1961 shortly after he became President.

His idea was for young people to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.

Peace Corps volunteers have served in over 136 countries with more than 170,000 volunteers in the past 43 years. Rollins had graduated from Gadsden High School in 1958 having grown up in the Quincy area.

His father H.W. Rollins was the agent for the Seaboard Airline Railroad in Quincy. "I was ready to do something good for my country,"

Rollins said about joining the Peace Corps and Kennedy’s charismatic call to serve.

Another young man, Richard Harris, would also hear the call.

Harris had grown up on a farm near Russell, Ohio and left his alma mater at West Geaught High School to attend Ohio State Harris was still in college when he felt the tug of Kennedy’s speech and would join the corps as a sophomore at Ohio State.

Rollins and Harris would meet during the Peace Corps’ extensive training at California State Polytechnic College at St. Luis Obispo, California.

They had no idea when they joined where they would be stationed, but by the time they got to California they knew they were headed for Morocco, a country of dry deserts in Northern Africa across the Straits of Gilbrater from Spain.

The two men became friends during their training in California.

Harris and his wife were visiting Rollins this past week reminiscing about their experiences in the Peace Corp.

"We had an idealism about life and felt that we could help things change," Harris said about his and Rollins desire to be a part of the Peace Corps.

It would be in late October that the two would finally find out they had been accepted in the Peace Corps.

The world of the early 60s was filled with a lot of political changes.

It would be the heyday of the "Cold War," and the pair would become all too aware of just how important international politics would play in their lives.

"Before we could be accepted into the Corps, the FBI had to do a background check on us. They were looking for criminal or subversive backgrounds.

The investigations continued even after we left for school. One person had to leave the Corps because of some affiliation with a socialist group," Rollins said.

Rollins added that he knew of several neighbors that the FBI visited and asked questions about his character and political affiliations.

After the pair finished their training in California it was time to head for their assignments.

Rollins and Harris would fly across the United States and leave the country from New York City.

"My parents flew up and we had a one-hour layover in New York before I flew overseas," Rollins said.

Both Rollins and Harris had flown their first airplane trips as Corps volunteers and now they were leaving their country going overseas for the first time.

"What have I done," Rollins thought as the plane lifted off and flew over Long Island.

"It was late at night and I watched as the lights disappeared behind us," Rollins said. Harris had different thoughts about the experience.

"I looked at it as a great adventure. Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted to see what was on the other side of the hill," Harris said.

The plane carried about 50 Peace Corps volunteers that would be scattered out over the newly formed country to help in schools, agriculture, and building of irrigation canals.

Morocco had been independent from its French protectorate for only a short time and the country was in short supply of teachers and engineers.

According to Rollins, Morocco had a diverse population of Arab, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and French people.

The larger cities were very international, he said.

Rollins would spend his working hours teaching while Harris would be in the fields helping the engineers lay out the much needed canals to irrigate the sparse land.

"We all learned a lot about the Moroccans people, their customs, and language and they learned a lot about America while we were there," Harris said.

It would be while stationed in Morocco that the volunteers would learn of Kennedy’s assassination.

They would hear of the tragedy over a shortwave radio in French, before they finally heard it over the BBC.

"I have never felt so lost in my life," Rollins said. "The Moroccans could not believe how quickly we had a president after Kennedy was assassinated,"

Harris said. The Moroccan people learned a lot about America, democracy, and the American people Harris said from the Peace Corps volunteers.

"If nothing else we expelled the myth of Americans, we worked everyday side by side with the Moroccan people.

Their image had been we were either military or rich sightseers and we changed that," Harris added.

Though it has been over 40 years ago Rollins and Harris still talk about their experiences helping the Moroccan people as if it were only yesterday.

Harris would leave Morocco and finish his B.S. degree in Agriculture and later a Masters in communications at Ohio State.

He received his draft notice after college and spent a stint in the Air Force where he became a information specialist.

That would lead him into the newspaper business where he would edit a weekly paper, work the city desk for a large paper, and eventually as a writer in a copy and printing business monthly magazine.

He is now retired and freelances for several trade magazines when he and his wife are not traveling.

Rollins would come back to the states and spend 20 years in a teaching career that would send him to Ohio, Alabama, and Florida settling in Orange County.

He retired three years ago after 13 years from his second career working for the Florida Department of Human Services.

February 2001 n/c

Jan/Feb. n/c

©2004 All rights reserved.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Gadsden County Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; History



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.