The Fulton community lost a longtime supporter Thursday.
Community banker, activist and philanthropist John C. Harris died Thursday morning at the age of 96.
Harris, a 1935 graduate of Fulton High School and 1939 graduate of Westminster College, served on The Callaway Bank Board of Directors starting in 1946 and became the bank president in 1957. He retired from the bank in 2001 but continued to serve on the board of directors until 2011. Harris also helped found the Missouri Independent Bankers Association and the state-chartered and FDIC-insured Missouri Independent Bank (now Midwest Independent Bank).
"Those of us who had the privilege to know and work for John have been blessed with his calm and positive demeanor, his gracious style, his mentorship, his good humor, and his steadfast leadership," Kim Barnes, President and CEO of The Callaway Bank stated in a press release. "He was a true gentleman. He had such a positive effect on our bank, our county, and the community banking industry. His memory and influence will be everlasting."
Harris also was a World War II veteran, having enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941 - days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Perhaps more significant than his professional legacy, however, was Harris' role as a community activist and philanthropist.
He was a founding member of the Community Chest - which later became the Callaway County United Way - in 1957 and served on its board of directors for many years. He and his brother, O.T. Harris, received the United Way's Kevin Ryan Memorial Award in 2010.
"He was instrumental to getting The Callaway Bank involved (with United Way) - they're one of our biggest contributors - and has always personally been a donor," said Callaway United Way Director Kathy Richey Liddle. "He's made a big difference in our community, and he will be missed."
Harris also was a founding member of the Fulton Housing Authority - the John C. Harris Community Center located there bears his name - and served as the chairman of its board for more than 30 years.
Other community involvement included the Human Rights Commission and the Westminster College Board of Trustees.
"He played an important role in the housing authority, he played a positive role for education and building the city of Fulton and was a great supporter of almost every organization in Fulton," said longtime Fulton City Councilman and neighbor Steve Moore. "He was just into supporting Fulton itself and helping out where he could in the community."
See the Sunday edition of the Fulton Sun for more on Harris' impact on the Fulton community.