Who was Richard Benjamin Harrison?
Richard Benjamin Harrison Jr. was a business owner and reality television personality from America who garnered fame as one of the stars of the History Channel reality television series ‘Pawn Stars’. He was equally well known by his two nicknames, “The Old Man” and “The Appraiser”. A Virginia native, he relocated to North Carolina with his family when he was one year old. Hailing from an impoverished background, Harrison started working as a bus driver when he was 14 years old. He got married in 1960 and later was forced to join the military due to a prior criminal act. He spent the next two decades in the US Navy, and after he was discharged, he briefly worked for his wife. In 1981, the family moved to Las Vegas, where Harrison and his son Rick established the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in 1989. Later, Harrison’s grandson through Rick, Corey, and his friend Chumlee joined the business. Since the premiere of ‘Pawn Stars’ in 2009, Harrison, along with the other three, had become international celebrities. He passed away at the age of 77 in June 2018.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on March 4, 1941, in Danville, Virginia, USA, Richard Benjamin Harrison was the son of Ruth and Richard Harrison Sr. When he was one year old, he relocated to Lexington, North Carolina, with his family.
He studied at Lexington High School but dropped out during his junior year. Because of his family’s financial condition, he worked for a while as a bus driver.
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Marriage & Family
When Harrison was 17 years old, he met JoAnne Rhue at a barn dance. They subsequently began dating and eventually decided to get married. However, before their marriage, Harrison was involved in a car theft and was apprehended by the police. During his hearing, the judge asked him to choose between military service and jail. Harrison picked the former.
He and JoAnne exchanged wedding vows in 1960 (some sources claim on July 7, 1959). They had four children together. Their oldest was their daughter Sherry, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome after her birth. She was followed by her three brothers, Joseph, Rick, and Chris.
Richard Benjamin Harrison joined the US Navy in October 1958 and went on to serve for the next two decades. In February 1962, he resigned from the navy before re-joining fourteen months later in order to receive the health care benefits needed to keep up with Sherry's rising medical expenses. She passed away at the age of six.
During his tenure in the navy, he served as a paymaster for a period and rose through the ranks to become a petty officer first class. He was part of the crew of four ships, spending the last five years of his service on fleet tug ATF 100 USS Chowanoc.
In 1967, the navy sent him to San Diego, California, where his wife got a real estate license in 1970. Three years later, she opened a real estate business. After leaving the navy, Harrison worked for his wife as a part-timer. However, they were forced to shut it down in 1981 due to a severe drop in real estate sales.
Move to Las Vegas & The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop
Richard Benjamin Harrison moved his family to Las Vegas, Nevada in pursuit of success in April 1981. There, he and Rick set up the Gold & Silver Coin Shop. The original store was a 300-square-foot building located at 1501 Las Vegas Boulevard.
In 1986, they moved the business to a larger building at 413 Fremont Street. In 1987, he acquired a license that allowed him to buy and sell second-hand goods. A year later, the lease for the business ran out.
In 1989, Rick and Harrison set up the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop at 713 Las Vegas Boulevard South, situated less than two miles away from the Las Vegas Strip. Since then, it has become one of the most prominent businesses in the city.
In time, Harrison’s grandson Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison and his childhood friend Austin “Chumlee” Russell also started working at the shop.
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was featured in a 2001 PBS documentary. Since then, Harrison and Rick had been trying to get a reality show made on the shop.
In 2008, they secured a deal with Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines of Leftfield Pictures. ‘Pawn Stars’ started airing on the History Channel on July 19, 2009, and has since become one of the most popular reality shows in the world. Currently airing its 16th season, the show has become a part of American pop culture.
The show depicted Harrison as someone who spoke very little and was short-tempered. His interactions with Chumlee was a running gag in the show. Harrison and his family had been sued several times, including once by their former manager, Wayne F. Jefferies.
In March 2010, Harrison, Rick, Corey, and Chumlee were given the key to Las Vegas by Mayor Oscar Goodman.
Later Life & Death
Richard Benjamin Harrison reportedly had not missed a day at the shop due to illness since 1994. Even when he did not appear on camera, he was often the first one to reach the shop. After a fight with Parkinson’s disease, Harrison passed away on June 25, 2018.
Harrison was deeply interested in automobiles, especially vintage ones.