The Charleston, W.Va., Gazette reported Jan. 2 that one of the most prominent figures in the Central Appalachia coal business, James “Buck” Harless, has passed away at the age of 94.
Harless was involved over the years in a number of coal companies, including investments in later years through his Mingo County-based holding company, International Industries. He was active in industry groups like the West Virginia Coal Association. Harless several years ago sold coal operations, including coal marketing company Logan & Kanawha Coal, to a private equity company, with those operations then re-sold in 2011 to James River Coal.
His death drew several statements from leading politicians, including this Jan. 2 statement from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who used to be in the coal business himself: “Buck Harless was a dear friend not only to me, but to all of West Virginia. Gayle and I are deeply saddened to learn of his passing, and we extend our condolences to his wife Hallie, his entire family and to all of those who were touched by his exceptional life. 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. Buck was, and will continue to be an inspiration to me and so many others in this state, and he will be deeply missed.”