Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary longtime supporter and friend, James “Buck” Harless, died January 1, 2014 in Gilbert, W.Va. He was 94 years old.
Harless was orphaned at an early age, and raised by relatives. In Gilbert, he grew a local lumber company into a multimillion-dollar business which led to the creation of hundreds of jobs in the region. He later became a philanthropist to many causes and served on numerous boards and civic organizations. In 2011, Harless chronicled his legacy in an autobiography, A Most Fortunate Life.
In 2008, Harless donated $750,000 to Louisville Seminary, to endow a professorship in biblical interpretation. In the 1980s, he helped establish the William A. Benfield Professorship in Evangelism and Global Mission, named for his close friend, a Louisville Seminary alum and employee, who served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Charleston from 1963 to 1979. Then, convinced of the need for effective ministry to families, he supported a project for strengthening family ministries in congregations. In 2003, he joined several contributors in challenging others in their annual stewardship and in the belief that a quality education, environment, faculty, and student aid will help equip men and women for quality ministry and leadership. Since 1988, Harless has invested more than $2.3 million in theological education at Louisville Seminary.
In 2003, he was honored with the Seminary’s first-ever Faithful Steward Award, which is presented periodically to someone who has been an example of generosity and dedication to the mission of Louisville Seminary, through faithful support and advocacy.
Preceding him in death were his first wife, June; son, Larry, infant granddaughter, Shera Elizabeth; brother, Fred, and sister, Mae Morris; half-brothers, Milton, Frank, Pearly J. "Bud", Jr., and Marshall Ray; half sisters, Marie Mace, Lucille Fortner and Betty Jo Collins; stepdaughter, Racina Chapman; and best friend, Fred Shewey.
Survivors include his wife, Hallie, of Gilbert; daughter, Judith Ann Burgess, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; half-brothers, Jimmy, and Earl; stepsons, Ryan and Brett Mollette; four grandchildren: James Harless II and wife, Sjon, of Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica and Mobile, Ala.; Maurice Kirk "M.K." Harless and wife, Paula, of Mobile, Ala.; Beverly Burgess of Shelbyville, Tenn.; and Stephanie Burgess Palmer and husband, Robert "Robby" of Mobile, Ala.; great-grandchildren: James Howard "Trip", III; Hope; Chelsea; Kitty; Chase; and Hannah.
A viewing was held at the Harless Community Center in Gilbert on January 4, and a service was held at the Gilbert Presbyterian Church on January 5 with former Louisville Seminary President Dr. Dean Thompson presiding. To express condolences, the family suggests contributions to the Larry Joe Harless Community Center, 202 Larry Joe Harless Drive, Gilbert, W.Va. 25621. Read Harless’ full obituary.