A Fulton legend known for his dedication to community and family has died.
Overton Thomas Harris, more commonly known as O.T., passed away Monday at Fulton Presbyterian Manor.
Harris grew up in Fulton, attending Fulton Public Schools and graduating from Westminster College in 1950. He was well known in Callaway County for his work with the Callaway Bank, according to Kim Barnes, president and CEO of the Callaway Bank. He was also a humble man, she added.
"O.T. was a philanthropist who cared deeply for Callaway County," she said. "Although he served on many boards and did many good works, he never wanted public credit for his actions. To him, it was enough to have done the work."
Barnes said Harris' name will always be tied to the community.
"O.T. was a past president and chairman of the board of the Callaway Bank," she said. "Following graduation from Westminster College, he joined the staff of the Callaway Bank full time and had an illustrious career in the banking industry that spanned many decades, only stepping away to serve his country in the Korean War."
Barnes said Harris left a legacy at the bank that will influence the bank and be remembered for decades.
"O.T. taught us many things," she said. "Be fair, be honest, be respectful, look deeper and be true to your principles. Act with compassion, be kind, lift up those less fortunate. We will miss him dearly, but we will honor him best by carrying on his legacy of true community banking."
Harris also served on the Westminster College board of trustees. In a statement released Tuesday, Westminster President Benjamin Ola. Akande said Harris was a great example to all those who knew him.
"As a Lifetime Trustee, a Churchill Fellow, and a brother of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, he has touched every aspect of our college with his wise counsel and generosity," Akande said. "When we seek a role model for our graduates to emulate, the integrity, leadership, work ethic, and kindness of O.T. Harris provides the inspiration. His gentle strength has touched all our lives. In the words of Shakespeare, we 'will not look upon his like again.'"
Above all, Harris epitomized the American Dream, Akande said.
"He epitomizes our American success story and love of country," he added. "He has now sailed for new worlds to conquer. I have no doubt our Maker is standing there to welcome him to those eternal shores."
Jacque Cowherd, superintendent of Fulton Public Schools, said though Harris' work with the school board happened before his time as superintendent, his influence can still be felt.
"I obviously wasn't around when he served on the board, but he clearly has the best intention for Fulton Public Schools at heart," he said. "Through his influence, the Callaway Bank has always been a partner with the district, providing the lowest possible borrowing costs on bonds. By supporting us, that's more money we can put into our classrooms."
Most people will remember Harris ending meetings with the school board and the bank in the same way, Barnes said.
"There was hardly a meeting he ran that he didn't end with 'Okay, let's get back to work,'" she said. "Many people who remember O.T. Harris will remember the closing of any meeting he conducted."
However, more important than all the professional success he had, Harris was a man of integrity and fierce dedication to his family, according to his son, Tom Harris.
"On the personal side, he has that kind of dedication to his family," he added. "He always made sure we had education and what we needed so we could do what we wanted to do."
Tom Harris said his father always tried his best to make the right and honorable decision in every facet of his life.
"I think when Dad went to work at the school board meeting or whatever he had to go do, he did it right," he said. "He did it with integrity. When you run a community bank, you are in the community every single day, and you approach everything you do in that way."
O.T. Harris was also a dedicated man of faith and found strength through his religious beliefs, Tom Harris said.
"First Presbyterian Church was his church," he said. "It was very important to him his entire life. It was part of who he was. His faith was always a guiding factor in his life."
Above all, Tom Harris said his father lived every day knowing if he treated people with dignity, everything would be OK.
"When you do what's right, in time, everything comes back and everything's OK," he said. "That's exactly how he lived."
O.T. Harris was preceded in death by his wife, Rosemary, son Bruce and brothers T. Crawford and John. He is survived by his daughter Helen Logan (Vince) and son Tom Harris (Brian Mahieu).
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Fulton Presbyterian Church with visitation beginning at 9 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of O.T. Harris are requested for Fulton Presbyterian Church or Westminster College.
Condolences for the Harris family may be left at maupinfuneralhome.com.