Allen Harris, Jr., was a business and community legend in the Tri-Cities region. As a native and longtime resident of Johnson City, his leadership and involvement served as a positive example to thousands of citizens.
The son of Allen, Sr., and Torrey Stanley Harris, he was born in Johnson City in 1906. Harris graduated from Washington & Lee University in 1927 and an earned MBA from Harvard School of Business in 1929. After completing his education, he joined the family business and was assigned sales responsibilities with the Harris Flooring Company in New York.
Harris served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy during World War II and remained a Navy Officer until the termination of hostilities in the Pacific Campaign in 1945. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for distinguished service.
Harris married Ruth Roberts of Tulsa, Okla., in 1947 and the couple adopted two children, Allen "Chip" Harris III, who died in 1990, and Eva Stanley Harris.
While Harris served in the Pacific, the demand for standard flooring products virtually ceased. Under his father's leadership, the company showed its versatility by manufacturing pre-finished flooring for military houses, then converted to war products at all its plants. Harris made over 22 million tent pins for the U.S. Army, 100,000 50-caliber dummy shells for the Navy, 180,000 innercans for the radio proximity fuse projector (a top military secret), and, when the war was terminated, the company had a shell plant under construction.
In 1968, Allen Harris, Jr., succeeded his father as President of Harris Manufacturing, Inc., the company founded in 1898 by his grandfather, William Pond Harris. As a businessman, Allen Harris, Jr., reached a level of success few local companies have matched. The Harris Manufacturing Company was one of the nation's premier manufacturers of hardwood flooring under his leadership and was well-known from Maine to California. He remained president until 1983 when the firm was sold to the Swedish Match Company. Harris was merged with the Swedish flooring company Tarkett AB, forming Harris-Tarkett. Allen Harris, Jr., through Harris-Tarkett, continued to remain a valuable economic partner to the region. Harris remained as vice-chairman of the new company until his death on April 24,1992.
Mr. Harris' interest in the success of this community was also well-demonstrated by his important affiliations. He served as president of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and trustee of the Johnson City Medical Center. Like his father, Harris served as president of the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association, was very active in the St. John's Episcopal Church (established with help from his grandfather) and the Rotary Club of Johnson City.
The creation of the Harris Foundation gave Johnson City and its schools a tremendous benefactor. The family foundation also supported the Boys Club of Johnson City and the Johnson City Public Library. Since its inception, millions of dollars were given to back to the community. The Harris Foundation community partnership has remained evident after his death.
The contributions of Allen Harris, Jr., to this community have been well documented. His is a legacy of citizenship that has epitomized our region's current standards of leadership, service, and philanthropy. Additionally, Harris' commitment to ETSU was extraordinary. He served for many years as chairman of the board of advisors for the ETSU College of Business, and as both director and president of the ETSU Foundation. Harris and his wife established the Allen and Ruth Harris Chair of Excellence in the ETSU College of Business to ensure the future success of program he advised and supported.