Harry L. Gilham, Jr.
Harry Leonidas Gilham, Jr., age 84, died Sunday, February 2, 2014. A native Atlantan, Harry had recently authored the book, Lighting the Way, about the history of Georgia Lighting, the company he founded in 1960. Indeed, Harry's entire life was one of "lighting the way" in business, in the community, in his church, and for his dear family.
Born January 25, 1930, the son of Harry Leonidas Gilham, Sr and Anna Benton Gilham, Harry attended E. Rivers Elementary and North Fulton High. He graduated from Emory University, BBA, with highest honors, before serving his country as a Naval Officer on the USS Balduck in the Pacific Fleet (1953-1955). After spending four years in Dalton, GA, learning about the lighting business, Harry returned to Atlanta and founded Georgia Lighting (1960) and World Imports Company (1968). He served as President of both companies until his retirement in 2001. A true entrepreneur, in the 1960s he pioneered the now-common use of showroom vignettes to demonstrate how lighting fixtures would look mixed with furniture and antiques in a home setting. He frequently traveled to Italy, Spain, and other European countries establishing relationships with artisan craftsmen to create high quality and beautiful lighting fixtures. Recognized nationally for his excellence in business, he received the Lighting Person of the Year Award in 1979 from the American Lighting Association and the Emory University Goizueta Business School's Entrepreneur Award in 2002. He was also deeply loved by the employees of Georgia Lighting, whom for 41 years he treated as family.
Harry also 'lit the way' in Atlanta's arts and preservation community. He enjoyed his role as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Georgia Museum of Arts in Athens, GA, and was recently honored by the Atlanta Preservation Center for his leadership. A long-time member of the Cathedral of St. Philip, he served on multiple stewardship and mission outreach committees, and he faithfully served on the Usher and Finance Teams.
A member of the Atlanta Rotary Club, Harry worked to raise funds for the club's Kenya Safe Water Project. He served on the board of the Brookwood Hills Civic Association and was active in the City of Atlanta's Neighborhood Planning Unit C. An avid golfer, Harry was a member of Atlanta's Piedmont Driving Club as well as the High Hampton Golf Club and the Country Club of Sapphire Valley, both in Cashiers, NC. Harry and his wife enjoyed spending time at their vacation home in Cashiers where he was a member of the Foundation Board of the Summit Charter School and the Church of the Good Shepherd. A voracious reader, Harry particularly enjoyed studying American and European history, as well as the history of wine.
Harry was a wonderful and generous man who nurtured a sense of intellectual curiosity and optimism throughout his life. He always cherished his many friends and family. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Caroline Mason Gilham, and by his children: Anna Gilham McGarrity and her husband Todd, and Jean Gilham Kirby and her husband Matthew. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Megan and Mason McGarrity and Lucy, Gibson & Anna Kate Kirby.
A memorial service will be held at 11 o'clock on Thursday, February 6th at The Cathedral of St. Philip, with Dean Sam Candler officiating. The family will receive friends at the church following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Harry to the Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, 30305; the Atlanta Preservation Center, 327 St. Paul Avenue SE, Atlanta, 30312; or the Georgia Museum of Art, 90 Carlton Street, Athens, 30602. Online condolences may be made at hmpattersonspringhill.com.