John Prince Harris passed away July 29, 2013, in an aviation accident near the Georgetown County Airport in South Carolina.He was born August 24, 1933, in Charleston, and attended Charleston High School and the West Virginia Institute of Technology. JP graduated in the Aviation Cadet Pilot Class of 55K. He was later stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., where he met Genelda Robertson of Newport News. They married on November 30, 1957, in Zurich, Switzerland, while he was on temporary duty at Landstuhl Air Force Base in Germany with the 510th Fighter Bomber Squadron. After returning from Europe he was an instructor for the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. During his career as a USAF pilot JP flew a variety of jets, including the P-80 Shooting Star, the Republic F-84 Thunderjet, the F-86 Sabre, the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-104 Starfighter.
John returned to Charleston to raise a family and work for West Virginia Steel Corporation, which was founded by his father, John Roy Harris, in 1934. He joined the West Virginia Air National Guard and flew, among others, C-130 cargo planes in transport missions all over the world, including the Bright Star operation in Egypt in 1982. He retired from the Air Guard in 1987 as a full colonel and was president of West Virginia Steel Corporation until it was sold in 1998. He also served as a director of the National Bank of Commerce for many years. He was a member of the Charleston Rotary Club, Classic Jet Aircraft Association and War Birds of America.
During those years he built a Smith mini-plane, two PJ-260 bi-planes and restored two Pontiac GTOs in his home garage. JP helped build the innovative Bellanca SkyRocket II and holds five world speed records as its test pilot in 1975. The Skyrocket was later acquired by NASA. Later, he rebuilt a Piper Twin Commanche, which he eventually donated to Wings for the Word, a North Carolina-based mission which delivered water purification relief to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. It is still in service flying aid missions. He also assembled and flew a Fouga Magister French trainer and attack fighter, which is now owned by a private collector and on display in Hamilton, Ontario. At the time of his death he was flying a 1963 vintage Folland Gnat T-1 British jet trainer like the ones used by the RAF Red Arrows.
John was predeceased by his parents, John Roy Harris in 1996 and Nelle Prince Harris in 2006. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Genelda; daughters, Susan Prince Harris Wallace (Thomas) of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Cynthia Ann Harris Grissom (James) of Chevy Chase, Md.; grandchildren, John Prince Wallace, Caroline Harris Wallace, James Mahaley Grissom, John Hewitt Grissom; and many friends.
A memorial service will be held Friday, August 16, at 2 p.m. in the Old Chapel at All Saints Church, 3560 Kings River Road, Pawleys Island, SC 29585. In Charleston, W.Va., there will be a funeral service at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 36 Norwood Road, Charleston, on Saturday, September 14, at 10:30 a.m. All are welcome to join the family at a visitation on Friday evening, September 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Matthews Hall, church parish.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org or P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675, or to a charitable organization of your choice. The online guestbook may be accessed at www.mayerfuneralhome.com.