Texas Politics

Funeral arrangements finalized for former state Sen. Chris Harris

Update Sunday night: According to a Facebook post by Mansfield Mayor David Cook, the funeral for former state Sen. Chris Harris will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie. Visitation is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Greenwood Funeral Home in Fort Worth.

Patrick M. Walker

Original story is below:

Former state Sen. Chris Harris, who died early Saturday at age 67, had a well-known reputation for being gruff.

But he had a softer side, too, said his law partner, Mansfield Mayor David Cook.

“One moment he may be tough as nails, and the next he’s a big teddy bear,” Cook said. “Anything you need, he was with you to the end.”

Mr. Harris, an Arlington High, TCU and Baylor Law School graduate, served portions of Tarrant, Denton, Johnson, Parker and Dallas counties during a 28-year career as a state lawmaker that ended with his retirement as the longest-serving Republican in the Texas Senate in 2013.

He was chairman of the Senate Administration Committee for five terms, was the Senate president pro tempore in 2001 and headed committees on jurisprudence and economic development.

Services are pending.

Cook said he persistently tried to get his foot in the door of Mr. Harris’ law firm when he graduated from college in 1993. Mr. Harris put him to work, and Cook “had the pleasure and opportunity to be around him ever since then.”

“He was a mentor and father figure to me for over 20 years,” Cook said. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunities he provided for me and lessons he taught me. They’ll be with me for the rest of my life and for generations to come.”

Cook said he admired Mr. Harris for his tenacity, something former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene also remembered.

“Chris was a strong and dependable advocate for Arlington,” Greene said. “He was so effective as a leader with superior legislative skills that calling on him was sure to produce a good outcome for our city. When Chris said he would handle it, you could count on him getting it done.”

In a Facebook post, Parker County Judge Mark Riley wrote, “Senator Harris represented a portion of East Parker County in the late 1980’s. He was one of the most responsive state officials I have ever worked with.”

Cook said that Mr. Harris had health issues on and off for a long time and that he was hospitalized Monday night “and couldn’t recover.”

Mr. Harris was instrumental in obtaining special funding that served as a catalyst for the growth of the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing into the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, the largest provider of nursing graduates in the state and one of the most respected programs in the world, UTA said in a statement.

Mr. Harris also championed funding for UTA’s Engineering Research Building, enabling dramatic growth in the UTA College of Engineering, now ranked in the top 100 engineering schools in the nation.

“Senator Harris’ drive to provide UTA with the tools it needed to expand was always his first priority,” said Jeff Jeter, longtime chief of staff for Mr. Harris and now UTA’s director of government relations. “Chris was a giant and a friend, and he will be missed.”

When Mr. Harris announced in 2011 that he would not seek re-election in 2013, he said it had been the “greatest honor of my life that my friends and neighbors have asked me to represent them alongside so many amazing men and women for almost three decades.”

Mr. Harris is survived by his wife, Tammy. The couple have five children.

Editor Patrick M. Walker contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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