Former Midway resident Harrison Pratt was recently sworn in to practice law in the state of Georgia. The August 12th ceremony took place in front of family at the Chatham County Courthouse with Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E. Morse, Jr. doing the honors.
Now, Harrison is able to practice law in two states-Georgia and South Carolina. Since 2017 Harrison has been a prosecutor in Columbia, S.C. He currently works at Baker, Ravenel & Bender, L.L.P, one of South Carolina’s oldest law firms which was established around 1900.
"In my years as a prosecutor I got to touch and work on a large variety of different crimes, from shoplifting to armed robberies and assaults to murders. I was given the opportunity to help the community from a different perspective. Not only could I help those wrongfully thrown into the criminal justice system, but I could also help victims who have been hurt by others. Serving as a prosecutor was both challenging and rewarding, but it remains one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had."
Harrison is the son of the late Michael Pratt and Ann Pratt Ogden (Ervin).
In 1996, the elder Pratt died of cancer when his son was just five years old yet he left a lasting image on young Harrison who says that his father's death led to people telling great stories about his father and the type of man he was and it made him internalize a desire to become a man with a good heart and reputation.
"He was described as a self-less lawyer who would bend over backwards to help those less fortunate," says Harrison. "One of the greatest compliments, I was told, was that he always stayed true to himself no matter what people thought. Honestly, after hearing these stories and descriptions for years, I began to rebel against the idea of following in his footsteps, because I felt he established a standard that I may never live up to. Little did I know, my rebellion against following in his footsteps, would lead me down a route to becoming a lawyer who desires to help those less fortunate just like him," he went on to add.
Michael Pratt was born in Oklahoma but came to Savannah when his father, Dr. Charles Pratt was hired to lead the chemistry department at Savannah State College (now University). Michael graduated from St. Pius High School in 1966, Savannah State College in 1970 and the University of Georgia School of Law in 1977. He also spent three years of active duty in the marines, the first African American Assistant District Attorney in Chatham County, he ran for congress and had made a large positive impact on the people he dealt with. Pratt also worked at Savannah State where he taught world history and government. He later was appointed assistant to the president. Pratt also served as the institution's legal counsel and was in charge of academic standards enforcement.
In a response to a specific request of Chatham County Commissioner Roy Allen, Michael Pratt was recommended by D.A. Spencer Lawton to become the first African American Assistant D.A. of Chatham County. The Chatham County Commissioners approved the request May 14, 1982. Michael Pratt served as primary attorney from the D.A. office in handling Juvenile Court cases.
Harrison, who stands a towering 6-foot-4, attended nearby Liberty County High School where he participated on the boys basketball team, golf team, drama club and was a member of the school's morning news team. He was also selected as the Most Outstanding Senior in 2009. He later attended Valdosta State University where he would earn his undergraduate degree in political science in 2013. While attending the southwest Georgia institution, he helped establish the school's first table tennis team. Harrison's next stop was law school at the University of Tulsa College of Law.
Witnessing police misconduct and abuse of power made Harrison want to pursue a career that he could do something about the injustice. "My first thought was 'who polices the police'? Through researching, I found that the FBI investigates police and government misconduct, so I immediately wanted to become an FBI agent, so that I could combat the injustices of the criminal justice system. One of the routes to getting into the FBI as a special agent was to be a lawyer. I chose that route because if I didn’t get a job with the FBI, I could at least be an attorney," he says.
Once he got into law school and started to learn about what protections the Constitution afforded people and reviewing cases where police still violated people’s rights made Harrison felt a deep empathy for those who have been wronged by these violations. "My vision turned from overseeing the police to protecting the people who were harmed by the system. I worked with a few private criminal defense attorneys while in school, but my best experience came when I worked for the Public Defender’s office in Tulsa. Helping real people get out of jail when their bond was too high and helping, in some cases, innocent people fight against their charges opened my eyes and my heart to the important work that Public Defenders across this country do."
Now that he is 29, Harrison admitted the he cannot help but to recognize the similarities between himself and his father. "I no longer shy away from the comparisons and I am truly proud to be compared to the great man that he was. I certainly would not be where I am without him and my family’s support. As I get older, I feel a sense of duty to carry on his legacy to not just be a lawyer or a prosecutor, but to be the type of man that looks to help people first and tries to make our community a little better for everyone. At some point I hope to return to my home of Savannah, Georgia and pick up where my father left off, serving the community that we both love."