James “Jim” Cunningham Harper Jr. ’53

James Cunningham Harper, Jr. (Jim) went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Thursday, August 17, 2023, 10 days before his 92nd birthday at the Stewart Healthcare Center in The Cypress of Charlotte. Jim, known as “GanGan” by his grandchildren, was a cherished husband, son, brother, father, grandfather, and friend.
Jim was born August 27, 1931, in Lenoir, North Carolina. He graduated from Lenoir High School in 1949, Davidson College in 1953, and Emory University in 1965. Jim was a North Carolina gentleman. While working at Wachovia Bank in Winston-Salem, he met the love of his life, Florida Eleanor Warren, of Mount Airy, North Carolina. They were married in 1962 for 53 years until Eleanor’s death in 2015.
Jim had a love of his community, a passion that drove both his professional and volunteer careers. After graduation, he served in the US Army in the Counterintelligence Corps and then was hired in 1957 by Wachovia Bank in Winston-Salem, NC, where Jim was also Treasurer for the Symphony Orchestra. After living in Atlanta for his MBA, Jim joined First Union National Bank in 1966, serving first in Charlotte, then moving to his hometown of Lenoir for the rest of his career. In Lenoir, Jim could be found serving as Treasurer for the annual United Way drive and acting President of the Kawanis club. As a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church, he served as an elder for more than 50 years and as a trustee of the church foundation in his later years. Retirement from First Union in 1989 did not slow Jim down as he continued as an active member of the Court Security panel, the Caldwell Foundation, The James C. Harper School of Performing Arts, and volunteering time to Caldwell Community College alongside his friend John Forlines. Both men shared a passion for Caldwell Hospice, joining together for the many fundraising drives to build out that organization. Jim retired from the Board of Hospice in 2008 after 15 years of service and continued his support for many years.
Jim also had a tremendous love of travel. He visited war-torn Europe in 1953 after graduation from Davidson. After they were married, Jim took Eleanor on a whirlwind tour around the world and enjoyed telling his grandchildren about his many adventures in India, Lebanon, Syria, and Japan. In the early 1980’s, he led the family on a trip to the Soviet Union and an adventurous road trip across Mexico. Age did not slow Jim down. After the age of 65, Jim did a mission trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia with friends, and he rafted the Zambezi River with 15-foot crocodiles. After 70, he travelled to Peru, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, and Vietnam and after 75 he travelled to Tibet, China, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
He was preceded in death by parents Captain James C. Harper and Charlotte Critz Harper, wife Eleanor Warren Harper, sister Lucy Harper Grier, brother George Finley Harper, sister Charlotte Harper Stone, brother-in-law Garland Glenn Warren, Jr and nephew James Harper Grier.
He is survived by brother-in-law John Warren and wife Paula Warren of Boise, Idaho, sister-in-law Jean Warren of Lake Placid, Florida, daughter Frances Harper Davis of Winston Salem, NC, son James C. Harper III and wife Katherine of Charlotte, NC, and son John Harper and wife Jennifer of Austin Texas, and grandchildren Emma and Reese Davis, Elizabeth, James IV and John Harper, and Collin Harper.
We are especially grateful for the loving caregivers from The Stewart Health Center at the Cypress of Charlotte. The kindness they showed towards Jim and his family in his final months was truly a blessing and inspiring. The Hospice of Mecklenburg County was also a source of comfort to Jim in his last few days, and we are profoundly grateful for their help.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. at a graveside service at Belleview Cemetery with the Reverend Dr. Leslie Dibble with a reception to follow. Joyous attitudes celebrating his great life are encouraged!
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations are sent to James C. Harper School of Performing Arts, PO Box 390, Lenoir, NC 28645 or Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, 902 Kirkwood St., Lenoir, NC 28645.