Young Loftin Gerdine Harris (1812 – April 28, 1894) was an American lawyer, businessman, politician, judge, and philanthropist. He is best known as the early benefactor of Young Harris College in the U.S. state of Georgia, after whom the school was named.
Harris was born in Elbert County, Georgia, in the middle of Walton Harris and Virginia Beverly Billup’s 8 children. His exact birthday is unknown, and it was not included on his headstone. Primary education was obtained in the common schools, then he attended the University of Georgia.
Harris was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1834 and began his law practice in Elberton, Georgia, where he was quite successful and represented Elbert County in the state legislature. He and his wife moved to Athens in 1840. He became well known and was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives from Clarke County in 1841 and from 1847 to 1852. He was also a delegate to the 1865 convention that drafted the 1868 Constitution of Georgia. Harris was appointed as judge of the Inferior Court of Athens In 1850, Harris owned seventeen slaves in Athens, Georgia. Harris was one of a group of Athens businessmen who founded the profitable Southern Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1847. He was initially named Secretary and Principal Director where he proved his financial skill by smart management of the company’s assets. Harris was company president from 1866 until his death, and the business became one of the largest in the southeast United States. Susan Bevel Allen, whose family worked a plantation, married Harris in 1835. The couple had no children. She died on May 18, 1888 at age 70 after 53 years together.