CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The business partner of the late James “Buck” Harless said Harless considered Mingo County his home and that is why he never left Gilbert, even after building a multimillion dollar business conglomerate.
“(Harless thought) ‘These are the people who made me whatever it is that I am and I love this community. I love these people. I love this state and I’m going to stay here,’” said Gary White, president of International Resources, on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Harless, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, died Wednesday night at his home at the age of 94.
White said there are many pieces to Harless’ legacy. “Of course, it’s his generosity. It’s his philanthropy. But I think there has to be something in his legacy for his business success and business acumen,” he said.
Up until his last days, White said Harless regularly read the Bible, business newspapers like “The Wall Street Journal” and books about successful business leaders.
White said when Harless’ son, Larry, first became ill and had to step away from the business, he offered his assistance and was later hired to work alongside Harless. Larry Joe Harless died in 1995.
Like many successful people, White said he witnessed how Buck Harless worked hard for his success.
“Of course he was bright. Of course he developed a great business acumen, but hard work was the common denominator of everyone that I’ve experienced (who’s been successful), and it certainly was the case with Buck,” said White.
It all started for Harless in Mingo County.
After his mother died, Harless’ aunt raised him. He graduated from Gilbert High School and went to work as a coal miner until 1947 when he left the mines to become manager and part owner of a sawmill in Gilbert. He later bought out the other owners.
At one point, Harless had developed new lumbering operations in South America and Central America and was the largest importer of mahogany in the United States.
His main company, International Industries, grew to include three divisions for coal, lumber and trucks.
In 2012, Harless detailed his life in his autobiography “A Most Fortunate Life.”
“It’s a sad day for us that remain, but a day of celebration for Buck and his family and friends who have gone on before him,” said White of Harless’ death.