Nelson G. Harris, 85, former Tasty Baking Co. chairman

Nelson G. Harris
Nelson G. Harris
Posted: January 13, 2012

Nelson G. Harris, 85, of Lafayette Hill, who retired in 1992 as chairman and chief executive officer of Tasty Baking Co., died Tuesday, Jan. 10, at home of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Harris had two careers at Tasty.

He joined the firm as secretary and treasurer in 1959 and, in 1960, was elected Tasty's treasurer and financial vice president.

In 1968, Mr. Harris left to become president of the Horn & Hardart Baking Co. He rose to chief executive there.

A newspaper report said Horn & Hardart closed its last Philadelphia automat, at 818 Chestnut St., in May 1969. At automats, each plate of food was in a glass-paneled wall container and customers would slip nickels into a wall slot to unlock the containers.

In 1971, Mr. Harris became president and director of Central Valley Co., the mortgage and title insurance subsidiary of Industrial Valley Bank & Trust Co. of Philadelphia.

In the 1970s, Mr. Harris was president of the Industrial Valley Bank golf tournament, held at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.

His second Tasty Baking career began in 1979, when, after an 11-year absence, he returned as president and chief operating officer.

In 1981, Mr. Harris became Tasty's president and CEO, and, in 1991, its chairman and CEO, a son, Thomas, said.

Mr. Harris became involved with the Blind Relief Fund of Philadelphia in 1958, his son said, and was its president from 1968 to 2000.

He received the Lewis Braille Award from the Associated Services for the Blind in 1986 and the Wills Eye Hospital Award for Service to the Blind and Visually Handicapped in 1992.

On a whimsical note, a 1977 newspaper story reported that Mr. Harris' wife, Rita, had "the distinction of being the first woman to be an overnight guest" at the Union League in its then-115-year history. Mr. Harris was a Union League vice president at the time.

After attending a Saturday-night concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music in October 1977, the story reported, Mr. and Mrs. Harris slept in one of three newly redecorated bedroom suites at the Union League. Mr. Harris became Union League president in 1979.

A native of Woodbury, Gloucester County, Mr. Harris graduated from Woodbury High School in 1944 and served in the Navy.

He earned a bachelor's degree at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1948, graduated from Temple University Law School in 1953, was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1954, and became a certified public accountant in 1955.

He was a member of the corporate committee of the United Negro College Fund and a board member of, among others, Bryn Mawr College, the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Haverford Trust Co., and Peco Energy Co.

Mr. Harris was a director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, and was an officer of, among others, the Allegheny West Foundation, which helped repair houses in that North Philadelphia neighborhood.

He earned several honors, including the 1993 William Penn Award and the 1988 American Red Cross Citizen of the Year Award, as well as the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia Award and the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award. He was president of the Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1975-76 and a member of the Pine Valley and Sunnybrook golf clubs.

In addition to his wife and son Thomas, Mr. Harris is survived by sons Stephen and David; a daughter, Patricia de Barros; a brother; and 10 grandchildren. Another son, William, died in 1996, and a daughter, Nancy Harris, died in 2010.

Visitation was set for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, at the Craft Funeral Home, 814 Bethlehem Pike, Erdenheim. A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8835 Germantown Ave. Burial is to be private.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or

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