|By Bob Weaver 2004|
Jackson County attorney Larry Harless was a champion of working people and
poor people, who believed that everyone should have their basic human needs
met. What little money he made as an attorney, he gave to his children.
He said of his life of service "I try to comfort the afflicted and afflict the
He refused to participate in the culturally accepted economic order, which he felt
exploited the poor. He bought his clothes at yard sales.
When you met him, he was generally unkempt, a situation related to his social
values, but also connected to his long history with bi-polar disease and
After our discussion about my own
struggle and recovery from alcoholism, he said
"There are days the sun never comes up," but when his brain chemistry went
awry, he would become manic and was "up for grabs."
WVU law professor Bob Bastress said Harless was "the most interesting
character I ever met. He was brilliant. He had enormous memory capacity. He
could recite Clarence Darrow's closing arguments to a jury."
Bastress recalled his days as a union organizer. As an attorney "He didn't care
who was on the other side. And he was as unique as he looked, which says a
He had been an all-state basketball player from Jackson County.
Harless served in the US Army and worked as a janitor at Kaiser Aluminum in
Ravenswood while attending West Virginia State College. In 1980, he received a
law degree from West Virginia University, graduating at the top of his class.
Harless was a union organizer for the Teamsters and the United Mine Workers
union, and helped organize the black lung movement in southern West
He was dismayed that nearly all of West Virginia's governors, many millionaires, have led the Mountain State since its inception. (The current coal mogul Jim Justice has been a billionaire)
He often spoke how outside extractors have drained the state dry, taking its resources and leaving it one of the poorest states in America.
He said such changes in governing are not likely to happen.
He ran for governor in 1988 receiving two-percent of the vote.
Harless sued the state over its Economic Development Grants, which he
claim misused gambling money to finance the plan, challenging some of the
projects which he said had nothing to do with economic development.
The Department of Human Services had to change their appeal process over
denying applicants basic sustenance.
Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw said, "Larry had an unusually strong sense of
justice under the law and an acute sense of economic injustice."
"He devoted his life to right those things he saw as immoral and wrong. He had
great faith in the capacity of the law to make things more right," said
Yesterday Larry Harless went to the middle of the William Ritchie Bridge across
the Ohio River at Ravenswood, lifted himself to the rail, sat for a few seconds and
waved goodbye to a passerby as he jumped to his death.
He may have been "comforting the afflicted."
It was a day in his life the sun did not shine.