OKLAHOMA CITY – James L. Harris died June 10, 2013, after a valiant but brief battle with myasthenia gravis.
A celebration of his life is 11 a.m. Friday, June 14, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, and those who attend are asked to wear happy colors in his memory.
He was born Nov. 5, 1926, in Crandall. He grew up throughout North Central Texas as the son of Methodist minister Rev. Jimmie Lee Harris and Edna Earle Harris. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and returned to Weatherford College where he met and courted the love of his life, Sammie Ruth Phillips. They married Sept. 5, 1948, and gave all who knew them the beautiful example of unconditional love that they shared with each other and all those around them. In 1961 came the birth of their daughter, Lauranne, and he always called her his added blessing.
He was a lifelong educator, beginning as a teacher, coach and principal in Parker County. He then began a program for returning servicemen to complete their education both at the secondary and collegiate level when the regulations required them to be working on their degrees or leave the service. He always said one of his proudest memories was to see these men complete classes that they had long ago thought were impossible. In 1956, he was selected by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (forerunner of Federal Aviation Administration) to go to Washington, D.C., in a training position. In 1960, he established the continuing education program for Aviation Medical Examiner physicians who provide all pilot medical exams in the U.S. He was the director of this FAA program for 30 years as well as teaching seminars on aircraft accident investigation. He received numerous awards for his exemplary work and was the first non-physician to be elected a fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association.