Robert J Harris

Robert J Harris

Death 9 Jul 2005 (aged 74)
Burial Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA
Memorial ID 18710216 View Source
Suggest Edits

Robert J. Harris, emeritus professor of law, was known for his energy and enthusiasm working at the Law School and with the city of Ann Arbor.
Photo courtesy Bentley Historical Library

Harris, a full-time member of the Law School faculty from 1959-74 and an adjunct professor for many years, died July 9. He was 74.

Colleagues describe Harris, who also served as Ann Arbor mayor from 1969-73, as caring and civic-minded. "He spent a lot of time talking to me about current events, such as fair housing and racial integration," says Rick Hills, a law professor who knew Harris for 12 years. "I thought he had more energy than some of my colleagues. I was impressed with him."

Harris's tenure as mayor came during turbulent times. Faced with protests against the Vietnam War, he worked with activists and University and city officials to keep the demonstrations peaceful and the city safe.

Ted Stanton, emeritus professor of law, taught the same course on first-year contracts when he arrived at the Law School in 1965. Harris gave Stanton course outlines and offered him teaching tips, such as "don't hesitate to confess ignorance if you don't know the answer. Be honest with the students."

"He emphasized not the substance of the material, but organizing it so it comes across clearly and with flair," Stanton says.

Harris was born Oct. 5, 1930, in Boston. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University and was a Rhodes Scholar. At Yale Law School, he was a member of the Law Review and the Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society. He served in the Army for two years during the Korean War, and moved in 1959 to Ann Arbor where he served as an attorney, in addition to his service as a law professor and mayor.

Harris served on many community boards and was a founding member of Friends of Legal Aid, which provides support to Legal Services of South Central Michigan. He also did extensive pro bono work for indigent individuals and for numerous groups, including Ozone House, Perry Nursery School and S.O.S. Community Services.

In his retirement, Harris tutored children in reading and volunteered for Food Gatherers. He also had a passion for model airplanes and jazz.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Mimi; children David of Ann Arbor; Liz (Lorn Gingrich) of Albany, N.Y.; and Kate (Peter Bullard) of Chelsea, Mich.; three grandchildren, Devon, Rachel and Sophia; brothers-in-law Dick Porter of Upper Jay, N.Y.; Herb Rueben of White Plains, N.Y.; and Sam Rosenfeld of Washington, D.C.; seven nephews, two nieces and his sisters-in-law.