A native of Magnolia (Pike County) Mississippi, Dr. Jesse Harness, Sr. received his Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education with minors in Biology and Music from Alcorn State University in 1967. He received his Master of Arts degree in Vegetable Crops and Extension Education from the University of Florida in 1972 and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Horticulture and Extension Education from Louisiana State University in 1979.
Dr. Harness’ professional career spans over 30 years, beginning in 1967 as a County Agent with Mississippi State University and ending upon his retirement from Alcorn State University. While employed at Alcorn State University he held numerous positions, including: Horticulture Specialist; Coordinator of Civil Rights and EEO; Associate Division Director for Administration (Assistant Dean); Associate Extension Administrator; First Director of the Small Farm Development Center and Loan Program; and Administrator for the Cooperative Extension Program. After retirement, he consulted with the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives and became a real estate broker with Miss-Lou Realty.
Throughout his career, Harness has received numerous honors, including: Induction into the George Washington Carver Hall of Fame (2005); Induction to the ASU Hall of Honors (2011); 1890 University Career Exemplar Award (2015); Outstanding Young Men of America; Who’s Who in Mississippi; Chairman of the National Commission on Small Farms; Secretary of the Agriculture Advisory Committee on Small Farms; member of the Accreditation Site Committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1978 and 1980; Outstanding Service Award from North Bolivar County Development Corporation; Mat E. Thomas Jr. Professional Achievement Award; President’s Club Award; L. A. Potts Memorial Success Story Award; Founder’s Award for establishing the Annual Small Farmer’s Conference, and the Tim Campbell Leadership Award. Furthermore, he holds a Vocational Agriculture Teaching Certificate, Certification of Completion of Basic Training in Civil Rights and EEO, and is a licensed Real Estate Broker with the Mississippi Real Estate Commission.
Harness has served in various capacities with professional, civic, social and religious organizations. These include: President of the Alcorn State University Jefferson County Alumni Chapter; Past First Vice-President of the ASU National Alumni Association; Deacon and Treasurer for Sherman Baptist Church; Senior Sunday School Teacher for Shiloh First Baptist Church; Congressional Advisory Committee for District 2; Presidential Council on Rural Development; Food and Agriculture Committee for the State of Mississippi; National Committee on Alternative Agriculture Enterprises; Squanto (National Extension Fraternity); ASU Kiwanis Club; Mississippi Association of Realtors; Jefferson County Christian Alliance; Headstart Policy Council; President of the Jefferson County School Board; Past Vice-President of the Natchez area Board of Realtors; Past President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Past President of the Jefferson County Athletic Booster Club.
He was married to the late Mary Harness and they are parents to three adult children: Jesse Jr., Jeffrey and John. He resides in Fayette, MS.