Since becoming president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power Company in 1989, Elmer Harris has been a compelling state leader and a strong voice for improving the quality of life in Alabama. Under Harris’s direction, Alabama Power has touched the lives of thousands of Alabamians with its contributions to education and economic development. This leadership includes creating the Alabama Power Foundation and the Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund, Inc.
Harris is one of three community leaders who founded the Birmingham Urban Revitalization Partnership, Inc. The nonprofit public/private effort is dedicated to urban revitalization and addressing human needs such as child care, assistance to the elderly and low-income housing. Harris’s commitment to education in the earliest years of a child’s life inspired corporate employer-sponsors to enter into a partnership with the City of Birmingham and Auburn University to create the Birmingham Early Learning Center. The center is unique with its highly qualified teachers, low teacher-student ratios, developmentally appropriate curriculum and enrichment activities, architectural design, and child development research. The center provides internships for students pursuing careers in early education, adds to the national storehouse of knowledge of human development and family studies, serves the family through parent education, and commits resources for childcare worker training in daycare centers throughout Birmingham.
In the business arena, Harris’s outstanding leadership has been vividly demonstrated time and again. His commitment to enhance the state’s economy led to the creation of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. This organization includes more than 30 Alabama companies dedicated to helping Alabama’s communities grow. While Harris was chairman in 1992, the Business Council of Alabama expanded its outreach to build a greater coalition of businesses across the state. Membership increased by 37 percent as a result of his emphasis on grassroots activism.
Harris is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the 1990 Arthritis Foundation Humanitarian Award, 1991 Gold Knight of Management Award, 1993 co-recipient of the American Economic Development Council’s inaugural Economic Development Award, 1994 Southern Industrial Development Council Volunteer of the Year Award, and the 1994 Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award. He holds two honorary doctoral degrees and was elected to the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1993. The Auburn University at Montgomery School of Business recognized Harris with its Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1995.
Elmer Harris was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2007. He received additional honorary degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University, Jacksonville State University, and Huntingdon College. Harris remained president and CEO of Alabama Power until 2001. He retired as chairman in 2002 to become chairman and CEO of the Alabama Center for Public Policy. Also in 2002, Harris was appointed Honorary Consul General of Japan, and the Birmingham Early Learning Center was renamed the Elmer and Glenda Harris Early Learning Center of Birmingham.