He became a member of Gilbert Presbyterian Church as an adult .
He grew the humble beginnings Gilbert Lumber Company into the multi-million-dollar International Industries Inc conglomerate, which is the founder in 1947 and now the President and CEO of International Industries, that exceed $700 million a year in revenue . International Industries, Inc. is based primarily in natural resources such as coal mining and timber, but which also include the manufacturing, hotel and real estate industries . It conducted business from three divisions including International Resources, Inc. (coal mining and marketing company L&K Coal), Gilco Lumber (lumber production and distribution), Inc., and Benson International, Inc. (manufacturing of trailers and truck bodies) and had operations in five states serving domestic and international customers.
Harless has been on Massey's Board of Directors serving upto 2005 as the Chairman of the Public and Environmental Policy Committee. Massey Energy, gained a front-row seat to the new Bush administration when it invited James H. “Buck” Harless to join its board in 2001.
Harless is a generous contributor to West Virginia’s coal mining industry. He has been recognized for his contributions by being inducted into the West Virginia Coal Hall of Fame. The West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association named him the Coal Man of the Year in 1976 .
Buck Harless was one of Governor Cecil Underwood’s biggest financial contributors. Underwood, who got 12 percent of his war chest from coal interests, borrowed a Harless executive to head his transition team in 1996. The ex-coal executive that Underwood named as Employment Programs Commissioner decided to halt any new suits against deadbeat coal interests in 1997. .
Hiram Lewis says he's collected money from contributors nationwide as the first candidate to file for Sen. Robert C. Byrd's seat in 2006. Lewis said his contributors include James H. "Buck'' Harless, a leading Republican Party fund-raiser.
He fund-raiser $275,000 for President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, given $5,000 for the Florida recount, and contributed $100,000 to the president’s inaugural fund and organized other coal interests to help make Bush the first Republican since 1928 to win West Virginia’s electoral votes (the votes were crucial to Bush’s hair-thin victory).
Six months later, West Virginia Coal Association Director William Raney praised members for their efforts and said, “You are already seeing in his actions the payback, if you will, his gratitude for what we did.” . Bush nicknamed Harless “Big Buck” and invited James H. Harless´ grandson to join the Bush Transition Energy Advisory Team, that shaped the administration’s supply-side energy policy administration and a precursor to Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, which developed the critical blueprint for the energy package on Capitol Hill .
According to the Charleston Gazette, Harless played a role in the appointment of Michael Castle to a position created specially for him in the Philadelphia office of the Environmental Protection Agency — the regional office whose territory includes West Virginia . In 2002, the EPA adopted an environmentally devastating rule promoting mountaintop removal coal mining, by changing clean water rules to allow the dumping of millions of tons of mining waste in Appalachian valleys and streams . His administration also reversed its campaign promise to reduce global warming by cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. "We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush,” he told the Wall Street Journal .
"You did everything you could to elect a Republican president," William Raney, director of the West Virginia Coal Association told a group of industry executives in May 2001, after the Bush administration reneged on its pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and abandoned the Kyoto global warming treaty. "You are already seeing in his actions the payback, if you will, his gratitude for what we did." .
During the 1999-2000 election cycle, the coal mining industry contributed more than $3.8 million in soft money, political action committee and individual contributions to federal parties and candidates, with the dollars going almost entirely to Republicans. The industry was one Bush's biggest contributors, over $114,000 during the election
An even bigger gift to the mining industry would be passage of the energy bill. Even the "slimmed down" version of the bill crafted to speed its passage still contains $7.4 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for the mining industry. Jack Gerard, head of the National Mining Association and another Bush Pioneer, told the West Virginia Coal Symposium in January that "the Energy Policy Act may well be the best opportunity the mining industry will have in our lifetimes." .
Harless was appointed by President Bush to the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors.
In 2004 he was a Bush pioneer, a group of individuals credited with raising more than $100,000 for the Bush campaign and President George W. Bush-Campaign Organization, West Virginia State Finance Chair .
Also James "Buck" Harless, introduced Bush to the crowd at the West Virginia Coal Association annual meeting in July 31 2008 .
Harless would get hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees for a coal gasification plant and had a private audience with the President at Bush's ranch.