AMerican Veteran 13

Harold Allen Tharp

February 5, 1922 ~ December 31, 2021 (age 99)


Harold Allen Tharp was born on February 5, 1922 in a parsonage home in a little east Texas town named Groveton. He completed Milby High School in Houston, TX at age 16 and took a job at Dow Chemical Corp. in Freeport, TX. He enrolled in night school at Rice Institute, then progressed rapidly to General Manager of the Dow Hotel, Apartments, and Homes serving their plant executives that managed the world’s largest magnesium and ethyl glycol chemical plants with over 100,000 employees. 

On Dec. 7th, 1941, the day that changed everyone’s plans for the future, Harold decided he would join the Army Air Corp which in 1948 became the United States Air Force. He was finishing his sophomore year in accounting at Rice Institute when he joined the Army Air Corps in March 1942. He had completed WTS for ferry pilots taking fighter aircraft to Europe when the shortage of bomber pilots became critical. Harold was a member of the first twenty single engine pilots chosen for the four engine training without having graduated from twin engine school. He was later chosen as a pilot instructor in the B-24 Liberator, which is what he was doing during World War II at the time Japan surrendered September 2, 1945. 

Harold remained in the Ready Air Force Reserve until his retirement with the rank of Lt. Col. on November 28, 1974. During his thirty-two years and eight months of service, he held assignments as Director of Procurement, Contracts & Logistics at Ellington AFB, Dyse AFB, and Harlingen AFB (all in Texas) Francis E. Warren AFB in WY, Warner Robbins AFB in GA, Eglin AFB, FL: Hamilton AFB in CA, Wright Patterson AFB, OH: Kirtland AFB and the AF Missile Dev. Center, in NM. He completed his military career in a full colonel position as Liaison Officer to the Governor of New Mexico for the Secretary of the Air Force. His assignment and offices were in Santa Fe. In case of a national emergency, Harold would have assumed direct command and control over all Air Force personnel on active duty in New Mexico with all communication channels direct to the Air Force Secretary’s office in the Pentagon, Washington DC. 
Harold never returned to his interest in accounting but chose to attend night school five nights each week at both Texas Southmost College and Texas A and I University to earn his degree in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. 

He continued with his Air Force civilian career as a Contracting Officer for the Air Force Systems Command to be assigned as one of the five COs called to the Pentagon to review and finalize the nine thousand page contract with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation  for the cargo aircraft, Galaxy C-5, which in 1966 was the largest and costliest aircraft and government contract ever written. Three years later, Harold retired from the Air Force Missile Development Center at Holloman Air Force Base in July of 1969 as the Director of Research and Development Contracts Division. 

Harold’s equal love to flying was conquering the challenges of creating a new business and making it a success against all adversities. He was never satisfied to have only one career or profession in progress at one time and continued to invest in new business ventures simultaneously with his military and civilian Air Force careers. 

In between the two, Harold financed and/or founded and operated over two dozen business ventures over the past seven decades. To mention a few, he put his first business on a side street next to his dad’s church in Gilmer, Texas when he was just nine years of age. He and a partner sold cold drinks, sandwiches, and candy all at a 40% mark up with a whopping success. His brothers laughingly claimed that years later the same $400 profit from that summer went into building the O’Reilly Automotive Parts Store at 500 S. White Sands Blvd. in Alamogordo still owned by the Tharp’s. Harold was the developer and builder of 268 homes in New Mexico and California; owned and developed two mobile home parks with 120 fully furnished rental units intended to provide low cost rent for airmen stationed at Holloman; building the first self-service car washes in the state and first self-service gasoline stations in Otero county in the early sixties; owned and operated cattle ranches, cotton and vegetable farms, and citrus orchards in Texas; owned trucking operations with eight tractors and eight large refrigerated trailers that operated nationwide; owned and operated a drive-in restaurant called the Go Burger; co-founded and chaired an oil corporation in Ventura, California in the early eighties that purchased and developed leases and drilled over five hundred oil and gas wells in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. 

Harold Tharp purchased the old Alto Ranch House along with its remaining property which sits five thousand feet higher than their home in Alamogordo. He enjoyed many summers watching herds of deer and elk graze the beautiful meadows. 

Harold is lovingly remembered by his wife, Frances Tharp, sons, Gregory Allen Tharp and Mark Allen Tharp with Tracy; daughter Bonnie Belknap with Dennis; grandchildren Cecilie Barth with Matthew, Nathan Tharp, David Belknap, Jonathon Belknap, Matthew Belknap with Breanna; and five great grandchildren, step grandchildren along with numerous nieces and nephews. Harold was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Regina and his oldest son, Harold Allen Tharp Jr. that passed away in Vietnam in service to his country; his parents, Rev. Arch Allen Tharp and Louise (Stokes) Tharp; brothers, James Allen Tharp with Joyce and Chick Tharp with Ruth.

A celebration of the life of Harold Allen Tharp will be held at Grace United Methodist Church in Alamogordo on Saturday, January 29th at 1 p.m.

The Tharp family has entrusted their loved one to the care of Scenic Chapel to direct the funeral services.  To sign the online register book, please visit

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Celebration of Life
January 29, 2022

1:00 PM
Grace United Methodist Church (Alamogordo)
Guaranteed delivery before the Celebration of Life begins

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