A former Nelson County sheriff and Korean War veteran who also worked in the local timber industry recently was laid to rest.

William “Bill” Harris, a lifelong resident of Nelson, died May 31 at age 87. He served as sheriff for 20 years and previously served six years as a deputy, first taking helm of the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office a few years after the devastation of Hurricane Camille that struck in the summer of 1969.

At age 19, he joined the United States Navy and served during the Korean War, according to his obituary. He served eight years before his honorable discharge in September 1959, at which time he returned home to Nelson, where he lived the remainder of his life.

A logger who learned from his father, he worked in the timber trade until joining the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office in 1965 and returned to the profession in 1991. He remained active in logging until his retirement at age 80.

Nelson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tommy Harvey, the only current board member serving when Harris was in office, recalled the late sheriff as a well-liked officer.

“He was a people’s sheriff,” Harvey said. “He represented the county very well.”

After his first election in November 1971, Harris served five terms and was succeeded by the late Ronald Wood, of Piney River. Wood, who joined the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office as a volunteer in the 1960s and became a deputy sheriff in 1972 under Harris, won a four-way race for the seat in 1991 and was reelected for a third term in 1999 before his death that year.

Four sheriffs have served since Harris’s tenure.

Tom Berry, who has worked as an attorney in Lovingston for more than 30 years, recalled the short walk to the sheriff’s office on mornings when Harris made breakfast. “They always had a hot plate running,” Berry said, adding with a grin: “They always said, ‘There wasn’t an animal that wasn’t edible going across the Harris yard.’”

Harris’s wife of 60 years, Gloria Harris, and his son William “Mike” Harris preceded him in death. He is survived by three siblings, two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was a member of Ridgecrest Baptist Church.

Berry described Bill Harris as a strong, visible leader in the community who worked hard to protect and serve others and “knew how to handle his business.”

“He looked out for a lot of people,” Berry said.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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