Nathan James Harsh, prominent Gallatin, Middle Tennessee attorney, antiquarian, and civil liberties champion, died on Friday, April 10, 2020 at age 82, having practiced law in Gallatin since August 1961.
Born December 26, 1937, he was the son of Lena Rebecca Warren Harsh, schoolteacher, and attorney Richard Herbert Harsh.
Survivors are: wife of 55 years, Norma Jean Simpson Harsh; sons, Richard Warren Harsh, Joseph Daniel Harsh; grandson, Nathan James Harsh; sister-in-laws, Mary Katherine (Dr. James) Davis; Lillian Watts Simpson.
Mr. Harsh, a well-known civil attorney, specialized in land condemnation, personal injury, workers’ compensation, wills, estates, real estate and domestic family matters. His son, Joe Harsh, is still practicing law at the Harsh & Harsh law office in Gallatin.
Mr. Harsh was educated in the public schools of Sumner County and graduated from Gallatin High School in 1955. He attended the University of the South, Mexico City College, and George Washington University in the summer of 1957, while a doorman for the United States Senate under the patronage of the late U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver. Mr. Harsh graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in August 1958 with a B.A. Degree and obtained his law degree in 1961 from Vanderbilt University. He served for six years in the Tennessee Air National Guard.
Mr. Harsh was appointed to the three-member Middle Tennessee Corp. of Engineering Land Commission by Federal District Judge Frank Gray to determine just compensation for the landowners after the Cordell Hull Dam was constructed and land was taken by the government by eminent domain to impound the Cordell Hull Lake. The commission heard around 80 cases in the 1970s.
In 1976, U.S. Senator James Sasser and incoming President Jimmy Carter created a five-member panel of which Mr. Harsh was a member to present three candidates for consideration to be Federal District Judge for Middle Tennessee. Out of the three presented by this screening committee, Thomas Wiseman, an attorney of Tullahoma, was selected by Sen. Sasser and thereafter appointed by President Carter.
Mr. Harsh had a wide range of interests, and with his wife Jean traveled repeatedly throughout Tennessee, the United States of America and the world at large. Mr. Harsh visited Mexico, England, Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Sicily, Greece, The Greek Islands, Turkey, Jamaica, Jordon, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, China, India, Russia, Venezuela, Equador, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.
In 1999 Mr. Harsh purchased in central Mexico a small house in the World Heritage Village of San Miguel De Allende. He was the published co-author of “The Arts and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture,” the definitive study to date of Tennessee furniture and its makers prior to 1850.
A Democrat, he was involved in local, state and national politics but never as a candidate for any office. He maintained a lifetime involvement in African-American and Hispanic history and culture, assisting the Tennessee African-American and Hispanic communities both as attorney and friend. He possessed a keen historical awareness, was active in the preservation of green space and of numerous historic structures in Sumner County and Tennessee — including Cragfont, Wynnewood, Rose Mont, Rock Castle, Bowen-Campbell House, Douglass-Clark House, Hugh Rogan Irish Stone Cottage (removed and relocated at Bledsoe Fort Park) and Nathaniel Parker Log Cabin (removed and relocated to Bledsoe Fort Park).
Due to COVID-19, a private family graveside service and interment took place at the Chenault Family Cemetery at Greenfield in Castalian Springs.
Please do not send flowers. Donations may be made to honor the memory of Nathan Harsh to the Bledsoe Fort Historic Park, PO Box 434, Castalian Springs, TN 37031; Rose Mont, 810 South Water Avenue, Gallatin, TN; the American Civil Liberties Union, Wynnewood, the Salvation Army or Historic Cragfont. Online condolences may be submitted at familyheritagefh.com. Family Heritage Funeral Home has been honored to assist the family.