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.
Upon his retirement, he maintained his influence in the aviation medical community as executive vice president for the Civil Aviation Medical Association for almost 18 years. Through his work, he made lasting friendships with people all over the world. He also loved woodworking and making furniture. There wasn’t a tool he did not know how to use, and he loved to use them to help his family, friends and neighbors. He made friends wherever he went whether at the bank, store or restaurant. He was a giant of a man in heart, soul and spirit. He was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and a charter member of the Insight Sunday School Class at St. Luke’s UMC in Oklahoma City where he served as their “pseudo president.” He generously supported his church in multiple ways and even went on a mission trip to Ulyanovsk, Russia, with his wife and daughter in August 2011.
He is survived by his dear wife, Sammie; daughter, Dr. Lauranne Harris; brother-in-law, Bill Carter and niece, Darla, and husband, Ricky Berry; and nephews, Freddie Carter and wife, Patricia, Joe Bill Carter and wife, Sharon, and G. Brad Carter and wife, Vicki.
He asked for no flowers but those who wish to may send a donation in his memory to “Russia Partners in Mission” at St. Luke’s UMC, 222 N.W. 15th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73103.
We are grateful for the wonderful care he received from the staff and physicians at Deaconess and Select Specialty Hospitals.
Hahn-Cook/Street & Draper Funeral Directors