Charles F. Harper, FAIA (1929-2019)
Former Mayor of Wichita Falls Charles Harper FAIA, died from complications related to Parkinson’s Disease Friday, January 25, 2019. Charles was a native of Bonham, Texas, a 1948 graduate of Bonham High School, and served in the United States Air Force from 1948 to 1950. After graduating from Texas Tech School of Architecture in 1955,Harper started his first architectural firm in 1962, approximately one year after moving his young family to Wichita Falls from Lubbock.
After moving to Wichita Falls, Harper was a tireless advocate of the City for the rest of his life. He served the City of Wichita Falls on many Boards, Committees and Task Forces. A member of the Wichita Falls City Council from 1983 to 1986,he was elected mayor in 1986 and served until 1988. Harper was also member of the Wichita Falls Planning Board; the Reconstruction and Redevelopment Task Force after the 1979 tornado; Director of the Nortex Regional Planning Commission;Co-chair of the Sheppard Area Relations Council, and Director of the Board of Commerce and Industry (BCI). Harper received the prestigious “Contributor Award” in 1988 from Sheppard Air Force Base. One of his proudest achievements during his term as Mayor came in 1987, when Harper, along with other civic leaders, was responsible for construction of the man-made waterfall over the Wichita River.
As a long-time member of the American Institute of Architects, Harper was honored by being named “Fellow, American Institute of Architects” (FAIA) for his work in advancing the profession. Charles was a member of the AIA Regional Urban Design Committee where he served as Chair of the Disaster Task Force and served as National Chair of the AIA Regional Disaster Response Team, a program that he originated in 1972. As a member of the AIA Disaster Response Team, Harper helped many cities recover from natural disasters including Wichita Falls, Ft. Smith, Arkansas; Lynn, Massachusetts; Carlsbad, New Mexico; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Caldwell, Idaho; Pasadena, Texas; Temple, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. Harper also served on an Advisory Panel for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The City of Nashville, Tennessee, presented Charles with the “Nashville Hit” award for his work helping East Nashville recover from the May 1998 tornado. After the 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls, Charles and the faculty of the Texas Tech Wind Research Institute did extensive research in to what really happens in a wind storm disaster. After that research,the “book” was rewritten on how to survive a tornado and hurricane, and the idea of an “in-house” shelter was born and developed.
Harper served as an officer and board member of the Texas Society of Architects (TSA), served on many other TSA committees over the years, and was awarded the Llewellyn F. Pitts Award, the highest individual award given by the TSA, by the Texas Society of Architects in 2002.
Harper also served Texas Tech University as a member and leader of many clubs and alumni associations. He served as a member of the Dean’s Committee to frame the future for the College of Architecture at Texas Tech. In 1997 Charles was awarded “Distinguished Alumnus of Texas Tech” and “Distinguished Alumnus, College of Architecture”. His service to the United Methodist Church, both locally and worldwide is lengthy. He served in many lay leadership positions and on multiple national and international committees. In 2000, Charles was presented the Francis Asbury Award for fostering United Methodist Ministries in Higher Education across the nation. He and his family were members of University United Methodist Church, and later First United Methodist Church.
In the Wichita Falls community Charles was involved as a member or director of Southwest Lions Club, Texas Oklahoma Fair, Child Care, Inc., Midtown Now, Inc., Goals for Wichita Falls, Wichita County Heritage Society, Concern, Inc., The American Heart Association, Work Services Corporation, Nortex Economic Development Commission, Quality Work Force Commission, North Texas Health Care Coalition, North Texas Council of the Boy Scouts of America, North Texas Local Workforce Development Board, Faith Masonic Lodge #1158, and Wichita Falls Commandery York Rite. At the 2000 Annual Meeting of the National Organization for Employment of the Disabled, Charles was presented the National Volunteer of the Year award for his work with Work Services Corporation in Wichita Falls, and was awarded “Lion of the Year for 2000” by the Wichita Falls Founder Lions Club.
Charles is survived by his wife of 63 years Betsy, sons Martin (Sara) of Colorado Springs Colorado, Mark (Teresa) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, 3 grandsons, three granddaughters, and two great-grandsons. He was preceded in death by sisters Ann Crow of Rowlett Texas, and Betty Tarpley of Bonham, Texas. Family visitation will from 6:00 until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 31 at Lunn’s Colonial Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, February 1 at First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls. Arrangements are under the direction of Lunn's Colonial Funeral Home.
Memorials can be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation or Hospice of Wichita Falls, 4909 Johnson Road, Wichita Falls, Texas 76310.