Dover, De. (AP) – A flatbed tow truck from Harris Towing Group sat silently in front of Bennie Smith Funeral Home in Dover Thursday night, a solemn reminder that Delaware businessman and trailblazer Luke J. Harris Jr. had died at age 76 on Sept. 18.

But it turned out that Mr. Harris wasn’t going out quietly, as around 18 tow trucks from Harris Towing and several other companies passed by and tooted their horns to show respect for the first Black tow truck business owner in Delaware.

“He did it for a long time,” said Jon Harris, one of Mr. Harris’ four sons. “He’s probably one of the senior tow companies in the area and at one point was the biggest towing company in Kent County.

“It’s difficult, and we’re going to miss him. He’s left a legacy for us.” MASTER SARGEANT

The late Mr. Harris’ story is an incredible one, which saw him transition from a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force – he retired as a master sergeant in 1985 after his second stint at Dover Air Force Base – before hitting the books at Delaware Technical Community College and starting his own business.

His sons, Jon, Michael, Joseph and Luke Anthony, were all trained in the towing business, and all worked for his company at one point.

Michael remembers his father as someone who would sacrifice anything he could to give a hand-up to others.

“Just the simple fact that he was kind of like a trailblazer for people to see him and start a business,” he said. “He sacrificed a lot for us and for my mom,” he said of Miriam Celestine Spellman, whom Mr. Harris married in 1967.

“I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but he helped her start her business, which was a beauty school and beauty salon. And then, after he retired (from the Air Force), he started his own business. He started with one truck and a dream, and it took off from there.”