Former Ohio Senate President Bill Harris Dies at 83

Local News

Many of you have heard me say before, and it’s my faith that tells me so clearly, that the Lord’s in charge.

Bill Harris, Ohio Senate President farewell speech, December 7, 2010

Monday, November 27, 2017, former Ohio Senate President Bill Harris died at the age of 83.

Word of his death spread quickly in political circles.

Just before noon, current Senate President Larry Obhof released a statement before stepping in front of cameras to discuss the impact Harris had on the legislature.

Within hours, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko sent condolences from himself and his wife.

Harris, a Republican, served in the legislature for 15 years, from 1995 to 2010; but politics was not the first time he served the people of Ohio.

As a young man, Harris was a marine and served in the Korean War and completed two tours in Vietnam.

After his time in the military, Harris made Ashland County his new home and became a car dealer.

He would go on to grow his business into one of the largest in Northern Ohio.

Then in 1995, in his 60’s, Harris decided to pursue an open House Seat.

He quickly rose through the ranks in the House and was Majority Whip by 1997.

Harris was a member of House leadership for four of the six years of the first woman Speaker of the House Jo Ann Davidson’s tenure who learned of his passing this morning.

“I was so saddened because of the kind of person that he was, and what he brought with him, the standards that he brought with him as a legislator,” said Davidson.

In 2000, he was appointed to an open Senate seat; four years later he became Senate President which he would continue to be until he was term-limited out six years later.

In his farewell speech, Harris talked about his goal when he first became a lawmaker.

“My objective, number one, was trying to convince people in Columbus that profit was not a bad word; that profit was essential to business to be successful,” said Harris.

He added that he hoped he was successful in that.

Current Senate President Larry Obhof had only good things to say about Harris.

“He was a pillar of the Ashland community and someone that will be deeply missed both here at the statehouse and more importantly, back home among the people that he served so well,” said Obhof.

Harris’ leadership style was one of cooperation, which he spoke of in his farewell speech.

“Are we going to agree with the other side of the aisle all of the time, probably not but that doesn’t mean that we ought not to have a direct communication and talk with each other on a continuing basis,” said Harris.

Obhof says that same collegial attitude is still in place today; a piece of the legacy Harris leaves behind.

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