Oscar N. Harris — a distinguished alumnus and advocate of Campbell University, two-term North Carolina state senator and five-term mayor of the City of Dunn — died on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
He was 80 years old.
A tireless advocate of his alma mater, his state and his beloved city, Harris was founder and president of his own public accountant firm, Oscar N. Harris & Associates, PA. Under his leadership as the longest-serving mayor (20 years) in Dunn’s history, the city won two All-America City awards and saw consistent growth (the area saw the sixth-largest population increase of any micropolitan area in the U.S. from 2016 to 2017).
“Dunn is my home,” he told the city’s newspaper, The Dunn Daily Record, upon his retirement in 2019. “I grew up here and have raised my family and built my businesses here. I will remain very active in civic, community and church affairs.”
His other home was Campbell University.
A 1965 graduate of then Campbell College, Harris once said he wouldn’t have been the man he was without his alma mater.
“Had it not been for Campbell, I doubt I would have even gone to college,” he said back in 2013. “It was the only college I could afford at the time.”
After graduation, Harris would return Campbell’s investment in him by investing in the school. He would go on to serve multiple terms on Campbell’s Board of Trustees until his death and was president of Campbell’s alumni association at one time. He was perhaps most proud of his time as chairman of the founders’ committee for the University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, which became North Carolina’s first new medical school in 35 years in August 2013. He was front and center at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school’s new home, the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences, of which he helped raise more than $35 million to build.
Harris served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 until 1961 and the U.S. Marines Active Reserve from 1961 until 1966. He was president of the Carolina Council for Affordable Rural Housing, board member of the Gen. William C. Lee Memorial Commission and Celebration Committee and a board member and finance member for the Southeastern College Assemblies of God. He was also a member of American Legion Post 59, Greater Dunn Jaycees, Habitat for Humanity, the Rotary Club of Dunn, North Carolina Masonic Charities, Shriners and numerous other organizations.
He was a long-standing member of the Glad Tidings Assemblies of God Church in Dunn.
“While I am stunned and deeply saddened by the unexpected death of Oscar Harris, my heart is filled with gratitude for the privilege of knowing and working with him,” said Campbell president J. Bradley Creed. “Oscar was a man who yielded his life to God’s greater purposes, and he made a lasting impact on our community and Campbell University. In the midst of both sorrows and successes, he was a man of grace, joy, and hope. He made a difference in the lives of so many people because he knew the importance of service. We will miss him.”
Harris was preceded in death by his wife, Jean Wood Harris, an infant son, William Junious Harris, a son, Oscar Nathan Harris II, a daughter-in-law, Lisa M. Harris, a grandson, Oscar Nathan Harris III, and a granddaughter, Sueanna Jean Harris. He is survived by daughter Sheila Harris Maness and husband Buddy Maness, and grandsons Eli Maness (Caitlin), David Maness and Jacob Maness.
Letters of condolence may be sent to Sheila and Buddy Maness at P.O. Box 578, Dunn, NC 28335.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in memory of Oscar Harris to the Campbell University Student Union project. Gifts may be sent to Campbell University, P.O. Box 116, Buies Creek, NC 27506 or given online: https://campaign.campbell.edu/ (be sure to include “Oscar Harris” on the memo line of your check or in the “Additional Comments” box for an online gift).
Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, at Glad Tidings Church, 711 Fairground Road in Dunn. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1.