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Former NC legislator, Dunn mayor Oscar Harris dies at 80

Posted January 29, 2020 11:03 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2020 12:28 p.m. EST

— Oscar Harris , a former North Carolina state senator, small-town mayor and close ally of Democratic governors, has died at age 80, his family said.

Harris, who served five terms as mayor of the Harnett County city of Dunn before choosing not to seek re-election last year, died near his home late Tuesday from an apparent heart attack, said Brad Crone, a family spokesman.

Harris served four years in the Senate beginning in 1999. He was the campaign treasurer for Gov. Beverly Perdue, and also served on the state Board of Transportation as an appointee of four-term Gov. Jim Hunt.

Harris “was one of North Carolina’s most important and effective public leaders,” Hunt said in a statement, adding he was “one of the top leaders in all of my election campaigns.”

"I was able to work with Mayor Harris during several weather emergency situations affecting Harnett County, and I was always struck by Oscar’s attention to detail and his get-it-done attitude," former Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. "Mayor Harris was a great leader for his city, our state and our nation."

Former Congressman Bob Etheridge, a Harnett County native, said he knew Harris for more than 50 years and called him "a true friend."

"Oscar Harris was a man of conviction and was deeply religious. His faith and his commitment to public service meant Oscar was dedicated to serving his fellow man and his community," Etheridge said in a statement. "Oscar Harris had great vision, was a great leader and a great businessman. Oscar had the ability to bring people together to get things done, whether it was for his church, for his city, for his state for his country."

Harris, a certified public accountant, graduated from Campbell University and worked to raise money for the campus' new medical school.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete on Wednesday.

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