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Fred Roy Harris


In office
November 4, 1964 – January 3, 1973
Served alongside: A. S. Mike Monroney, Henry Bellmon
Preceded by J. Howard Edmondson
Succeeded by Dewey F. Bartlett

In office
1969 – 1970
Preceded by Lawrence F. O'Brien
Succeeded by Lawrence F. O'Brien

Born November 13, 1930 (1930-11-13) (age 79)
Walters, Oklahoma
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) LaDonna Harris
Profession Lawyer, Academician
Religion Presbyterian

Fred Roy Harris (born November 13, 1930) was a Democratic United States Senator from the state of Oklahoma from 1964 until 1973.

Harris was born in Cotton County, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1952 and its law school in 1954. He was first elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 1956 and served in it until 1964. For most of this time he was one of its youngest members. He made an unsuccessful race for governor of Oklahoma in 1962; however, he became better known throughout the state as a consequence of this race.

In 1964 Harris entered the race to serve out the unexpired term of United States Senator Robert S. Kerr, who had died in office. He was successful, narrowly upsetting Republican nominee and legendary Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson, and was sworn in as soon as the vote totals could be verified, becoming, again, one of the youngest members of the body in which he was serving. Despite being fairly liberal from a generally conservative state, he was elected to a full term in 1966. During this Senate term, he also served briefly as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, being both preceded and succeeded in that position by Larry O'Brien. Harris was also on the short list for Vice-President in 1968 when Hubert Humphrey narrowed his choices to Harris and Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. Humphrey, according to former DNC Chair Lawrence O'Brien, chose Senator Muskie at the very last minute. In 1971 he was the only Senator to vote against confirmation of Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court[1].

In 1970, Harris was a major mover in the eventually successful 1970 legislation to restore to the inhabitants of the Taos Pueblo 48,000 acres (194 km²) of mountain land taken by President Theodore Roosevelt and designated as the Carson National Forest early in the twentieth century.[2]. The struggle was particularly emotive since this return of Taos land included Blue Lake, which the people of the Pueblo traditionally consider sacred.

Harris forged a bipartisan alliance to pass this, with then President Richard Nixon, from whom Harris was sharply divided on numerous other issues, notably the Vietnam War. The Liberal Democrat Harris had no hesitation in joining forces with the Republican Nixon in order to overcome the powerful fellow Democaratic Senators Clinton Anderson and Scoop Jackson, who were firmly opposed to return of the Taos lands. As recounted by Harris wife LaDonna, who was actively involved in the struggle, when the bill was finally passed and came up to be signed by the President, Nixon looked up and said: "I can't believe I'm signing a bill that was sponsored by Fred Harris" [3].

Harris did not seek another term in 1972, choosing instead to make a run for President. It was a short-lived campaign that ended with Harris planning a different kind of race in 1976. In 1975 he announced that he would seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976. Harris' race had at least two unusual features. For one, in order to keep expenses down, he traveled the country in a RV and stayed in private homes, giving his hosts a card which was to be redeemable for one night's stay in the White House upon his election. For another, he placed unusual stress on issues affecting the working class. He also pushed for Native American issues. This was due to his background – his wife LaDonna Harris was of Native American Commanche ancestry, and had been deeply involved in Native American activism in her own right. Moreover, he was from the state which had begun its political existence as Indian Territory.

Harris' positions on issues were largely those of an unabashed liberal (some said 'radical'); he appealed to the party's activist base which had helped to nominate George McGovern in 1972; this stand had considerably less appeal to major contributors who had observed McGovern's 49-state landslide defeat four years earlier and were looking for a candidate who seemed more electable. Harris' underfunded campaign soon faltered; along with his inability to raise significant sums of money his support among the party's liberal activist base was split with Arizona Representative Morris Udall. (The nomination and eventual November victory went to former governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter, who ran as a moderate.)

Harris left elective politics for the academic world. He has had many books on political subjects published, including, Potomac Fever (Norton, 1977 ISBN 0393056104) and Deadlock or Decision: The U.S. Senate and the Rise of National Politics (Oxford University, 1993 ISBN 0195080254). He is also the author of three novels. Harris currently is a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and a resident of Corrales, New Mexico. He will soon be teaching a course at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

References

  1. ^ http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=252960
  2. ^ Julyan, B: New Mexico's Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide, page 73. Big Earth Publishing, 1999
  3. ^ LaDonna Harris : A Comanche Life, University of Nebraska Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8032-2396-X, p. 90.
United States Senate
Preceded by
J. Howard Edmondson
United States Senator from Oklahoma (Class 2)
19641973
Succeeded by
Dewey F. Bartlett
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