Harris E. Long, banker, dies at 88
By BETSY BOLGER-PAULET
BELLEAIR -- Harris E. "Zip" Long, a banker and philanthropist for whom the Long Center in Clearwater was named, died Tuesday (Nov. 20, 2001) at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater. He was 88.
The recreation/education complex on Belcher Road was known simply as the Center until 1990, when it was named in Mr. Long's honor to commemorate his donations of $2-million to the facility.
With his wife, Shirley Irene Long, Mr. Long participated in a number of charities and causes. He helped First Christian Church of Clearwater build a Family Life Center, including a gymnasium, classrooms and a stage. He also bought an organ for the church sanctuary. He gave $100,000 to Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children in Tampa for surgical equipment and $140,000 to the University of Florida athletic department for scholarships.
At Morton Plant Hospital, the couple fully endowed several nursing scholarships. And the Longs have been major benefactors of the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens and Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn.
Mr. Long established the Harris E. "Zip" Long Charitable Foundation Inc. to support the Long Center and First Christian Church.
Born over his family's drugstore in Whitten, Iowa, Mr. Long was named Harris because that was his mother's maiden name. But soon after his birth, his father -- none too happy with his wife's choice of a first name -- placed a box of cigars on the counter of the store and announced: "Zip is here." The nickname stuck.
Although Mr. Long graduated from Drake University Law School and was admitted to the Iowa State Bar, he spent only one year practicing law in Grundy, Iowa. He did this to please his ailing mother, who died at 52. Mr. Long made his personal fortune in banking.
A Navy veteran of World War II, he spent 22 months at sea aboard the USS St. George, a seaplane tender in the Philippine Sea. He fought in the Battle of Okinawa, when his ship was hit by Japanese kamikaze pilots.
After he was discharged in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant junior grade, Mr. Long went to work for Hardin County Savings Bank in Union, Iowa.
In 1947, he purchased the Humeston (Iowa) State Bank with a $12,500 down payment, which came from his gin rummy winnings while in the Navy.
Mr. Long went on to buy and sell 20 banks in Iowa and formed the Iowa Bancorporation, the first bank holding company in that state.
He came to this area in 1957 from Leon, Iowa, and in 1962 organized and formed Gulf-to-Bay Bank and Trust Co. He purchased 10 percent of the stock and in 1967 gained control of that bank and formed 1st South Bancorporation Inc.
In 1965, he joined Exchange Bancorporation, Tampa, where he served on the board and as vice president for more than 10 years.
Mr. Long then started new banks for Exchange Bancorporation in Holiday, Pinellas Park, Dunedin and Largo and was chairman of the board of five banks as well as investment officer for Exchange Bancorporation.
Besides his wife, survivors include a son, Charles W., Clearwater; two daughters, Judith K. Schafers, New Port Richey, and Peggee Ann Cuson, Tucson; a stepson, Paul S. Goodwin, Kazakhstan; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
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