Robert Harding Harris, age 93, of Atlanta, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014.
Bob was born on October 31st, 1920, to Florence and Augustus Harris. He grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and graduated from Sidney Lanier High School. Bob began college at Auburn University in 1939, where he won the All Campus Track meet as a freshman and joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity.
In 1941, he was accepted into the Aviator Cadet program of The Army Air Corps and took a leave of absence from college in order to serve his country. During his time in the Air Corps, Bob piloted 150 missions over the Eastern Himalaya Mountains on a route referred to as "The Hump" by allied pilots. It was the only supply route for U.S. troops between China, India, and Burma. Due to treacherous weather conditions, the absence of navigational aids, and the threat of enemy planes, 'The Hump' was known to have the most dangerous flying conditions of any route during WWII. By 1945, Bob had piloted over 28 different aircraft, experiencing his dream of flying high-performance fighters. This dream was ultimately fulfilled when he was selected to be one of the test pilots for America's first jet aircraft, the P-59.
During the war, Bob was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to Auburn at the end of his service and was reintroduced to a girl he had met a few years earlier, who he remembered fondly as "the lovely freshman who wore a pink fuzzy sweater, a cute plaid skirt, and saddle shoes." Six months after they reunited, Zuma Jeanette Williams from Cordele, Georgia, agreed to become his bride. The two were happily married for 62 wonderful years.
Bob graduated from Auburn in 1946 with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and joined General Electric in Schenectady, NY. He was thrilled to be named one of the three Distinguished Auburn Engineers of the year in 1986. During his 38-year career with GE, Bob and Zuma lived in Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Tokyo, Japan. His final assignment before retiring was Vice President and General Manager of Northern Pacific Operations in Tokyo.
Bob served as Chairman of the Aviation Committee of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and was active in The Rotary Cub, Silver Wings Fraternity, The Elfin Society, The Mariners Investment Club, Northside United Methodist Church, The Northside Bible Class, and Cherokee Town and Country Club. He enjoyed his lunch groups with the Cherokee Chiefs, "LMTU," and friends from Lenbrook.
Bob was an avid reader, gardener, golfer, and history buff. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He never met a stranger and lived life to its fullest. Bob expressed it best when he said, "I feel blessed with a beautiful family, good health, strong faith in God and Christ, a love of my country, a devotion to my fellow man, and a belief that I contributed just a little to our world. What more could a person ask of life?"
Bob is preceded in death by his wife, and his brothers, Augustus Jackson Harris, Jr. and Louis Carl Harris. He survived by four children: Susan Lindsey (Frank) of Atlanta, GA, Margaret Anne Bentley (Jim) of Lookout Mountain, TN, Bucky Harris of Clayton, GA, and Nancy Christensen (Ken) of Atlanta, GA. Nine grandchildren: Allison Lindsey Foster (Chuck), Suzanne Lindsey Norman (McLeod), Kate Lindsey Powell (Robert), Jenny Bentley Watson (Chas), James E. Bentley Jr. (Catherine), Robert Harris Bentley, Alexander Colgan Harris, Rebecca Flynn Harris, Matthew Harris Christensen as well as five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
The memorial service will be Saturday, January 25th, 2:00p.m. at Northside United Methodist Church, with Dr. Gil Watson officiating. A reception will follow in the Faith and Arts Center at the Church.
In Lieu of flowers please make donations to Northside United Methodist Church, 2799 Northside Drive, Atlanta, 30305.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 24, 2014