Necia Desiree Harkless, an educator, artist, musician and author who was active in Lexington's arts scene, died Thursday. She was 94.
Harkless grew up in Detroit, where she became interested in music at an early age, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in piano and musical theory from the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts. She taught piano for many years before returning to school, receiving a doctorate in education from Wayne State University in 1974.
That same year, she moved to Lexington to take a job at the University of Kentucky, where she became an associate professor, concentrating on early childhood education, said her brother, James Harkless. She worked there until 1981, when she moved to Georgetown College.
After retiring in 1985, Harkless further expanded into her many other interests, including poetry and oil painting. She researched the Black Madonna statues in European churches, ancient African culture and art, the Nubian and Meroitic kingdoms of ancient Egypt and Sudan, and the contributions of black women in early American history.
In 2006, she published a book titled Nubian Pharaohs and Meroitic Kings: The Kingdom Of Kush.
Harkless also served on numerous civic organizations, including the Lexington Art League and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. She was a Donovan Scholar at UK and received an honorary doctorate of letters from Georgetown College.
"She was a person who did almost everything she possibly could in terms of life," James Harkless said.
Harkless is survived by her brother, James Harkless of Washington, D.C., and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date.