By SHAUN SAVARESE
Of The Record Staff
Yesterday, a North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners report stated there were 98 CPAs in the state practicing with more than 50 years experience.
Today, City of Dunn Mayor Oscar N. Harris becomes the 99th.
The board has issued 41,047 CPA licenses since 1913. Currently, there are 21,000 active CPAs in the state. Mayor Harris earned his license 50 years ago today, Feb. 17, 1967, license number 2,962.
Of those 99 active CPAs with more than 50 years of practice, Mayor Harris is only number 80 in age.
“There are 79 people in front of him (older) and 19 behind him,” N.C. State Board of CPA Examiners Executive Director Robert N. Brooks said.
The longest-practicing CPA in the state is also an attorney in Rocky Mount who has been practicing since 1950. Frank Meadows holds license number 922.
“But that shouldn’t take anything off of Oscar,” Mr. Brooks continued. “I think he just epitomizes what a CPA is — the way he operates his business and the kind of firm he runs — when you’re doing something for 50 years, you’re doing something right … it’s definitely something to be proud of.”
North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants CEO Sharon Bryson propelled that praise for the Dunn public figure.
“As a 52-year member of the N.C. Association of CPAs, Oscar has been actively involved for a long time. He is one of our esteemed members who have earned Senior-Life status within the association,” Ms. Bryson said. “He has attended many continuing education courses over the years, and it is our pleasure to serve him.”
The NCACPA provided in-depth See Harris, Page 3A
When the average person hears the name Oscar Harris, they think mayor of Dunn. Mr. Harris is many things more than that — including a long serving and noted CPA, the first Campbell graduate to become one.
“He’s been great. He’s kept me out of trouble — in fact I’ve never been audited. He’s just a gentleman, and one of my best friends.”
— Businessman Pat Godwin Harris
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information on Mayor Harris’ membership there, stating he is one of the 942 individuals with 40-or-more years of NCACPA membership.
“Out of these 942 individuals, Mr. Harris is in the 260th spot. He is one of 31 members who joined in 1965 and still has continuous membership,” said Lorrie Leonhardt, NCACPA director of communications.
In 1978, Mr. Harris began his CPA business, Oscar N. Harris & Associates, P.A. The firm celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. Worked His Way Through College
After graduating from Hobbton High School and serving three years in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Harris worked his way through college at Campbell University, earning a degree in business administration and becoming one of the first Certified Public Accountants to graduate from there.
Campbell University Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Planned Giving Jerry Wood called Mr. Harris “a wonderful person.”
“Oscar graduated from Campbell in 1965 and we think he is the first accounting major from Campbell to hold CPA certification … that’s a distinguishing mark for him,” said Mr. Wood. “His has vision as a leader, energy and leadership qualities that you don’t see in most people.”
Public service has always been important to Mr. Harris. He served four terms as mayor of Dunn and is currently serving his fifth term — making him the longest- serving mayor. Mayor Harris has served on the board of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Banking Commission and the North Carolina Economic Development Board. Mr. Harris served two terms as the senator of North Carolina 15th Senatorial District.
“He dedicated his life to serving the community and serving the state,” added Mr. Brooks. “I was awful disappointed when he left (the Senate). It was a sad day.”
Many of his customers, colleagues and friends; when given the opportunity, spoke highly of the former state senator and his rare achievement.
‘Sold For Life’
“If he’s been in business for 50 years, we’ve been a customer for 50 years,” said Carlie C’s IGA owner Mac McLamb. “As well as I remember, the very first time that we ever got Oscar, my daddy got a huge tax refund back … and we were sold for life. He’s family and he’s like family to us. His ethics and thoroughness are beyond question. He has a good heart and always does the right thing, the right way. We enjoy doing business with him and his entire staff, it’s a pleasure. We think of Oscar, not as a provider of services, but more as a partner.”
Another notable customer, Pat Godwin, owner of Godwin Mfg., has known Mayor Harris from youth.
“We drunk out of the same beverage bottle when we were growing up … we go back a long ways,” Mr. Godwin said.
He added that Godwin Mfg. has been a loyal customer for all 50 years.
“He’s been great. He’s kept me out of trouble — in fact I’ve never been audited. He’s just a gentleman, and one of my best friends. He’s a very professional CPA.”
Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Robert Carr said he consulted with Mr. Harris before the future mayor chose to open his accounting firm.
“I encouraged him, because he was just the kind of guy you like to advise you, and keep your records and do your tax returns,” said Mr. Carr, who is a business owner, philanthropist and president of the Dunn Area History Museum.
“Over the years, Oscar has been my adviser, my counselor, my CPA, my friend — in good times and bad times.
“He loves the people of Dunn and he has shown that through the things he’s done for the City of Dunn,” he said.
Former Mayor Dal Snipes of Snipes Insurance was playfully shocked at the good mayor’s tenure in the trade.
“Fifty years, really? Oscar keeps himself in such good shape, I didn’t think he was a day over 50,” he said. “Our firm has been doing business with Oscar Harris and Associates, and his entire team, for exactly 40 years, and I can honestly say that because of their advice — and our partnership — we are a much better and stronger firm because of that relationship.”
‘Man Of Integrity’
Yet another closer customer, colleague and friend, the Rev. Dr. Charles Kelly, former superintendent of North Carolina Assembly of God, called Mr. Harris “a very valued friend.
“I worked with Oscar Harris professionally for 45 years and my personal relationship with Mr. Harris extends for the same amount of time,” Dr. Kelly said. “Professionally and personally, I’ve found him to be a man of integrity, incredible abilities. We have formed a friendship that extends far beyond our professional relationship.”
The people who know him well — employees past and present — know well his passion for people.
Dixie W. Honeycutt, retired firm administrator, worked for Mr. Harris for almost as long as he’s been licensed, and referred to her former boss as among the most caring, hardworking people she knows.
“He is a visionary with his excellent planning and organizational skills. Oscar has the ability to make things possible that may otherwise seem impossible,” she said.
“He is devoted to his family. Oscar receives great joy in helping his church, his friends and clients who he feels are an extension of his family. He is a great example of a true public servant.
“He truly wants to make a difference in our world. Oscar helps so many people in need and wants absolutely no recognition for himself. His heart for our community, state and nation is truly an inspiration in our world today. I know that my life is blessed because he is my friend,” Ms. Honeycutt said.
Oscar N. Harris & Associates, P.A. Firm Practice Manager Sherry Johnson confirmed his work ethic. She said she has enjoyed learning from Mr. Harris.
“He is a wonderful mentor, leader and he leads by example because he wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything that he doesn’t do himself or has not done himself,” Ms. Johnson said. “In our profession, to have held and worked with a CPA certificate for 50 years is amazing. He tells the story that he personally knew the first CPA in North Carolina and with him being 2,926, there weren’t but 2,925 CPAs before him.”
“I remember, the very first time that we ever got Oscar, my daddy got a huge tax refund back … and we were sold for life.”
— Carlie C’s IGA owner Mac McLamb