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 comfortable."

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 depression.

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 lot."

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 Virginia.

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.

He lost.

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 McGraw.

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.

My life was made a little better, meeting him.