Valdosta Daily Times

March 3, 2014

Carolyn Harris

The Valdosta Daily Times

-- — Carolyn Harris was determined to bring the arts and fine entertaining to Cook County, and bring it she did.

She co-founded the Cook County Council for the Arts in 1993 and was its president through 2007.  Her dream was to bring entertainers and performances to Adel and Cook County for those who otherwise wouldn’t see them.  She never let up on that dream.  Event tickets were $5, and Mrs. Harris brought in entertainment ranging from the famous piano player Emma Kelly featured in the best-seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to the Tommy Dorsey Band, to Georgia’s folk life play “Swamp Gravy.”  

Through Mrs. Harris’ leadership and tireless efforts, the arts council was profitable and established a summer arts camp for children.  She lined up--and had as her house guests—noted artists, poets, writers and musicians who worked with the children during the arts camps.

Mrs. Harris, age 88, died March 3, 2014 at Emeritus at Vinings in Atlanta.  The funeral is at 11:00 a.m. Friday, March 7, 2014, with Rev. Dillard Ensley officiating, at Adel United Methodist Church where she and her family sat on the second pew center all her life.  Interment will follow at Woodlawn City Cemetery in Adel.  Visitation will be held Thursday, March 6, 2014 from 6 until 8 PM at Boone Funeral Home, 1804 S. Hutchinson Ave. in Adel, Georgia.  The widow of Adel banker William Harris, she was born in Alamo Aug. 19, 1925, to Joseph Patrick and Abbie Hill Tomlinson and moved to Adel as an infant.

Mrs. Harris wanted every child to have a chance in life and did what she could to make a difference in their lives.  As Cook County’s school and community coordinator 1978-1990, she forged a partnership between education and businesses that was one of the best in Georgia.  Mrs. Harris established the Cook County Educational Foundation that has provided scholarships to 900 students.  If she saw that a student needed a pair of shoes, she made sure the money was donated to buy them.  No need went unmet.

Over the years, Mrs. Harris was presented 14 awards in recognition of her dedicated service, among them being named the county’s 1981-82 Citizen of the Year and Woman of the Year in 1995.  She was honored by two Georgia Governors.  She was constantly on the telephone telling people why they should buy a ticket to an arts event or support a political candidate.  When it came to politics, Mrs. Harris was a Democrat through and through.  Candidates knew if she campaigned for them, they would win.  She entered political office once, serving as Cook County Ordinary in the early 1960s to fulfill the term of her father who died in office.

Mrs. Harris shared her exquisite flare for entertaining with everyone in Cook County.  It was her gift to the community; all done for no charge and often paid for out of her own pocket.  It took a warehouse to store her collection of more than 1,000 tablecloths, countless sets of formal china, crystal, flatware, silver serving pieces, candelabras, and more informal table settings and theme centerpieces.  She would arrange an intimate dinner party or stage an event for 700 people with the same attention to detail and creativity.

If a bride called to borrow a tablecloth, the conversation would end with Mrs. Harris staging the entire reception.  She was determined that entertaining be done properly and with a touch of class whether it was a formal dinner or a barbeque fund-raiser for a political candidate.  At 3 a.m. when the lights were on in her mid-century house located on a five-acre pond, Mrs. Harris was cooking for her next affair.

She had a talent for matching people’s money and skills to what a project needed and didn’t hesitate to ask for their support.  Well, she told them what to do in an asking way, and they did it.  People knew two things about her, she wouldn’t take “No” for an answer and she out-worked everyone.  Mrs. Harris donated her entertaining supplies to the community for anyone to borrow free of charge when she moved to Smyrna in 2007 to be near family after being a lifelong resident of Adel, Georgia.

As a permanent honor to Mrs. Harris, the 2009 Cook County High School — which she lobbied for — includes a 550-seat state of the art facility named in her honor, The Carolyn Harris Performing Arts Center but called by all “The Carolyn.”

Survivors include her two daughters, Pam Van Patton and Patrice Campbell of Smyrna; two grandchildren, Dr. Angela Feazel Mattke of Mableton and Brad Campbell of Atlanta; two great-grandchildren, Wolf Mattke and Morgan Mattke of Mableton; three nieces, Kay Powell of Smyrna, Mary Frank Powell Wingate of Quitman, and Martha Powell Coppage of Valdosta; four nephews, Ethridge “E.J.” Harris and Keith Harris of Adel, Bill Haston of McMinnville, TN, and Harris Haston of Nashville, TN.; and dear friend, Michael Dinnerman.

Boone Funeral home is serving the Harris family and condolences may be expressed to the family online at — Boone Funeral Home.