Air Mail Pioneer
Jess C. Harris served
the U.S. Air Mail Service as a mechanic nearly from its beginning
in 1920 to 1927 when it contracted airmail to private carriers.
moved from Elko, Nevada, to Burbank, California. He worked
as a cycle sergeant on the police force for twelve years, then,
having obtained his pilot's license in 1931, flew as a test pilot
for Lockheed from 1940 to 1945. Moving back to Elko, he worked
as an under sheriff until 1950 when he was elected sheriff for six
more terms until 1974. His father was elected sheriff
in 1909 until he died in office in 1936. The county airport
in Elko was named JC Harris Field in 1975, in honor of both Jess
and his father.
Jess was known
in the state of Nevada as "The Flying Sheriff," and was written
up in two flight magazines and an FBI bulletin. Flying two
prisoners to the state penitentiary in Carson City, Nevada, two
weeks before he retired, he was caught in a snow storm and hit the
side of a mountain. He didn't need a flight plan because he
knew the area so well with 13,000 hours to his credit. He
was seriously injured and one of the prisoners was later pardoned
for helping to keep him alive until the search party found the plane.
The other prisoner was not seriously injured but lost vision in
one eye. Jess died in 1980 as a result of the accident.