Roy Lee Harmon

Beckley Post-Herald
April 8, 1981

Roy Lee Harmon, 80, Dies

Roy Lee Harmon, 80 of 216 Sunrise Ave., Beckley, poet, politician and newspaperman, died Tuesday at 3:15 a.m. in a local hospital after a long illness.

The Boone County native, who had lived in Beckley for many years, was the author of six books of poetry and held the post of state Poet Laureate from 1937, serving in that post for 41 years. He assumed the title of Poet Laureate Emeritus in February 1979.

In his last book, published in 1978, Harmon alluded to his long illness and spoke of his death.

"I am 77 years old and this is probably my final book of poetry, although I shall continue to write so long as I live. Maybe I couldn't do otherwise if I tried," he wrote.

"But the shadows darken, my old eyes dim, and I believe that somewhere just around the bend I shall encounter Death the Dark One. And when that happens, I shall thank God of all creation who has allowed me to live so long in my beloved hills of West Virginia and write my poems," he wrote.

Born Oct. 7, 1900, Harmon was graduated from Scott District High School and attended Morris Harvey College for a short time.

Later, Harmon started work as a reporter for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. After a brief turn as city editor for a Florida daily and a stint as reporter and columnist for The Raleigh Register, he became sports editor of the Huntington Advertiser. From 1937 until 1946 he was sports editor of the Beckley Post-Herald.

Harmon worked at The Raleigh Register for several different stretches, then left to become managing editor and part owner of the Wayne News in Wayne County.

After two years in Wayne County, Harmon came back to The Raleigh Register where he stayed as city editor until his retirement from newspapers in 1965.

Harmon moved to Beckley in 1937 and served 12 years as a member of the House of Delegates from Raleigh County. Among his works in the House was his decision to c-sponsor a bill to make Marshall College a university in 1961.

He also served a stint as public relations officer for the Department of Natural Resources and as a member of the staff.

He was founder and first president of the West Virginia Poetry Society. Among his honors was an Appreciation Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Community in 1973, International Who's Who of Poetry for 1970-1971, an appreciation award from the state poetry society in 1971 and a column writing award from the West Virginia Press Association in 1950.

Harmon also will be remembered by Beckleyans and Woodrow Wilson High School graduates as rewriting the words to the Flying Eagle's fight song, which is still used today.

His published books include "Hillbilly Ballads," "Around the Mountains," "Up the Creek," "Unto the Hills," "Rhymes of a Mountaineer" and "Roses in December.["]

Harmon was a lifelong member of the Poetry Society.

Survivors include his wife, Edgar (Eddie) Vivian Harmon; two stepsons, William Belcher of Summerville, N.J., and Frank Belcher of Dallas, Tex.; three stepdaughters, Mrs. Edsel (Alice) Trouten of Rockwood, Mich., Mrs. George Leona Richardson of Newport News, Va., and Mrs. James (Margaret Ann) Spadaro of Columbus, Ohio; a sister, Mrs. Freda Bishop of Long Beach, Calif.; nine step-grandchildren and one great-stepgrandchild.

Funeral services will be Thursday at 1 p.m. in Melton Mortuary chapel in Beckley with Drs. W.H. Griswold and Shirley Donnelly officiating. Burial will be in Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens in Prosperity.

Friends may call today from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Pallbearers will be Lewis McManus, Vernon Barley, Carroll Simpkins, Zina French, William Bassett, Al Ellison, Jack Roop, Louis Gall and Clarence Hancock.

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