Harless, a philanthropist and member of the West Virginia Coal Hall of Fame and the state’s Business Hall of Fame, passed at home in Gilbert on Wednesday evening following a brief undisclosed illness.
From his beginnings as a coal miner in the Red Jacket area of Mingo County, one of the state’s southernmost counties, Harless worked his way up, established Gilbert Lumber and eventually took ownership of coal, timber, hotels and real estate conglomerate International Industries.
He was the board chairman of Massey Energy at one point in time and was heavily involved with politics – in fact, he is credited for aiding George Bush in his 2000 win of the White House.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called Harless a “giant” that the state had lost.
“Buck Harless' generosity and philanthropy always will be remembered throughout West Virginia,” he said.
“Harless was a living legend who shared his successes with his local community, the state and the region without asking for anything in return.
“He was a true West Virginia success story and embodied the strength, determination and love for his neighbours that makes this state great.”
State Senator Joe Manchin said Harless was a dear personal friend as well as a friend to the entire Appalachian state.
“We extend our condolences to his wife Hallie, his entire family and to all of those who were touched by his exceptional life,” he said.
“I will always remember and admire Buck's passion to make West Virginia a better place to work and to live and his contributions to our state, particularly to our coal industry, state education programs and Boy Scouts of America, will never be forgotten.”
No funeral information has yet been released.