Born: February 16, 1936, in the mill village of ATCO, now Cartersville, Georgia
Married: Elizabeth Carlock
- 1953 began his military service which included the Georgia Air National Guard, U.S. Army Reserves and the U.S. Army
- Two term Governor of Georgia, 1982 and 1986
- Over twenty six years of distinguished public service
- Wrote his memoirs in Personal Reflections on a Public Life
Joe Frank Harris graduated from Cartersville High School in 1954 and received a bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Georgia in 1958. His military service began at age 17 and lasted for eleven years (1953-1964), serving in the Georgia Air National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserves and U.S. Army. Following graduation from the University of Georgia, Harris joined the family cement business started by his father in the 1940’s. Harris Cement Products, Inc. was a manufacturer of concrete blocks and ready-mixed concrete. By 1980, when the Harris’s sold the business, the company was one of the largest in the region.
In 1964 Harris made his first run for public office, winning election for the first of nine consecutive two year terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. By 1974, Harris was the second ranking democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and by years end became the chairman. The major achievement of his 18 years in the state legislature was in budgetary reform, including four terms as chair of the important Appropriations Committee. Twice elected governor of Georgia, in 1982 and again in 1986, Harris presided over the state during a decade of tremendous growth. In his memoirs, Personal Reflections on a Public Life, Harris said the accomplishment of which he was most proud was passage of the Quality Based Education Act in 1985. Largely because of the QBE reforms, Georgia in a few years moved from a rank of 47th among the 50 states in teachers’ salaries and educational resources to the middle of the pack. Other achievements were in the areas of minority rights such as making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday and appointing a number of African-Americans to significant government positions. In addition, economic growth saw over 850,000 new jobs created and planning got under way for the Georgia Dome along with the success of bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.
After two terms as governor, Harris returned to Cartersville with his wife, the former Elizabeth Carlock, after twenty-six years in state government. Harris has since served a seven year term on the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, serving as chairman in 2002. He continues to serve on the boards of several charities and businesses.