As Davis & Elkins College leaders mourn the passing of West Virginia businessman and philanthropist James H. "Buck" Harless, they also reflect on the Gilbert native's generosity, support and friendship to the College.
Harless died on January 1 at age 94.
Harless served on the Davis & Elkins College Board of Trustees from 1985-1989. He was a major benefactor of the College, including important support for the Benfield-Vick Chaplain Endowment, Booth Library, scholarships and on-going programs of the College.
L. Newton Thomas of Charleston, another leading West Virginia industrialist who chaired the Davis & Elkins Board of Trustees during the time Harless was a member, commented, "As a life-long Presbyterian, Buck Harless was a valued Trustee who cared deeply about the College's relationship to the Church. He was a strong supporter, especially of D&E's mission to serve the youth of West Virginia with the opportunity for a quality private college education."
A close friend of D&E Trustee Joyce Allen and her husband, John, Harless continued his engagement with the College even in his final months. Last March, the D&E Mission Team's annual Alternative Spring Break trip included a visit with him at his office in Mingo County. The group has fond memories of sharing their future plans and receiving advice from Harless on how to achieve their goals. They also learned of his commitment to giving back to those in need.
Harless began his career as a coal miner. He later became part owner and manager of Gilbert Lumber Company, which he grew into the multi-million dollar International Industries Inc. The company operated in three divisions to produce coal, lumber and manufacture truck bodies and trailers.
The widely-attended funeral service for Harless was held at the Gilbert Presbyterian Church on Sunday, January 5.