Harry W. Fawkes, 83, chair of Bucks GOP committee from 1972 to 2012

Harry W. Fawkes, former Bucks GOP chair, was surrounded by elephants in his Doylestown office. File Photograph
Harry W. Fawkes, former Bucks GOP chair, was surrounded by elephants in his Doylestown office. File Photograph
Posted: March 16, 2013

Harry W. Fawkes, 83, chairman of the Bucks County Republican Committee from 1972 to 2012, died Tuesday, March 12, at Arden Courts in Yardley.

Mr. Fawkes began his business career by running his own one-truck garbage hauling firm at 18. It had become a $3 million-a-year operation by the time he sold it in 1987 to Waste Management Inc.

But if anyone doubted that Republican politics was what made him tick, the convincer was a visit to party headquarters, where hundreds of figures of elephants - that tried and true Republican symbol - filled his Doylestown office.

"His friendship and counsel will be missed by many," Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said in a statement Thursday.

"On a personal level, his friendship and advice made me a stronger public servant and a better person," U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), a former Bucks County commissioner, said in a statement.

"In his role as Republican chairman, Harry was selfless and magnanimous. . . . Our community has lost a giant of a man - strong in stature, in principle, in humility and graciousness."

Republican State Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson, whose district includes lower Bucks County, said that he had known Mr. Fawkes all his life. "I'm from Bensalem and he's Croydon, right up the street," he said. "Harry always believed what was best for his neighborhood made good politics."

"I don't ever remember him yelling at me," said Tomlinson, a senator since 1994. "But he did reason very strongly with me sometimes."

Bucks County Democratic Chairman John Cordisco said Thursday, "We both enjoyed successes and losses over the last decade, but never did it interfere with the personal relationship. We kind of worked in a joint fashion; never really had this partisan [wall] between us."

Said Mr. Fawkes' son, Harry Jr., "My father was a hardworking, earnest man who enjoyed doing things that helped his community and the county."

Born in the Croydon section of Bristol Township, Mr. Fawkes had an unsettled childhood.

His father, who delivered food to Philadelphia grocery stores, moved to Florida and divorced Mr. Fawkes' mother when the boy was 12.

"I owe everything to my mother," Mr. Fawkes said in an Inquirer interview in 2005.

But, Mr. Fawkes said, even she "had trouble getting me out of bed" for school, and so he dropped out after eighth grade.

He worked in a soap factory, then a grocery store, and, by 18, he was married and heading his one-truck garbage-hauling business.

His wife, Mary, said that at some point she had read that Bucks County political powerhouse Joseph R. Grundy had said "that any intelligent person who doesn't become involved in politics is a fool.

"So I said to Harry, 'We're no fools, so we better get involved,' " she told The Inquirer.

In 1959, Mr. Fawkes was elected to the Bristol Township Council, where he served for 12 years, nine of them as chairman.

In 1971, he lost an election to become a county commissioner, but was approached by Republicans about heading the county organization, which he did a year later.

"I always say I got the booby prize," he told The Inquirer.

In addition to his son, Mr. Fawkes is survived by daughters April Clark and Deborah Compton; a sister, five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A viewing was set for 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 17, and from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, March 18, at Tomlinson Funeral Home, 2207 Bristol Pike, Bensalem, followed by a noon funeral service there, with burial in Bristol Cemetery.

Contact Walter F. Naedele at 610-313-8134 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

Inquirer politics writer Thomas Fitzgerald contributed to this article.

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