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Robert Lewis Harris

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Information about Robert Lewis Harris

Profile image of Robert Lewis Harris

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Energy Executive
Civil Rights Lawyer
Corporate Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bahamas
Favorite Quote:
If You Have No Confidence In Self, You're Twice Defeated In The Race Of Life. With Confidence, You Have Won Before You Even Started.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1944
Birth Location:
Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Energy Executive
Civil Rights Lawyer
Corporate Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bahamas
Favorite Quote:
If You Have No Confidence In Self, You're Twice Defeated In The Race Of Life. With Confidence, You Have Won Before You Even Started.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1944
Birth Location:
Arkadelphia
See how Robert Lewis Harris is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Lawyer, activist, and business executive Robert Lewis Harris was born to Lucy and Benjamin Harris on March 4, 1944, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. After moving to California in 1960, Harris, a 1961 graduate of Oakland Technical High School, received his A.A. degree from Merritt College in Oakland in 1963 and his B.A. degree from San Francisco State University in 1965 (in 2007 he was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame). Harris worked as a probation officer for four years before entering the University of California Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall). Shortly after Harris’s receipt of his J.D. degree in 1972, he joined the legal staff at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) where he spent thirty-four years as an attorney and business executive, retiring in January 2007.

In 1973, Harris became active with his local bar associations, serving in 1976 as President of the Charles Houston Bar Association (CHBA), an association of Black lawyers in Northern California. He made a name for himself in the legal community by leading a team of Black lawyers who successfully defended the NAACP against libel and slander charges in 1978. A year later, he made history by becoming the first lawyer from the West Coast to ever serve as President of the National Bar Association (NBA). A Founder of the California Association of Black Lawyers in 1977, Harris in 1982 served as a founding member of the board of the National Bar Institute, the funding component of the NBA. Later that year, he became the first President of the Wiley Manuel Law Foundation, the funding component of CHBA. In 1983, he became Chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of Oakland branch of the NAACP, and in 1986, he received the NAACP’s highest legal honor, the W. Robert Ming Award for his advocacy on behalf of the NAACP. Harris has also received the highest honors of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Laurel Wreath Award) and the NBA (C. Francis Stradford Award).

In 1985, Harris argued and won a landmark corporate free speech case in the U.S. Supreme Court protecting PG&E’s First Amendment rights. In 1987, Harris married Glenda Newell, with whom he had two children. After completing the Harvard Business School’s Advance Management Program in 1988, he began his ascension through the corporate ranks at PG&E, first as Vice President of Community Relations and later as Vice President of Environmental Affairs. In the latter position, Harris expanded and led PG&E’s environmental stewardship endeavors to a new level. Harris has continued his involvement in community issues by serving in the highest ranking positions in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Grand Polemarch) and in Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (the Boulé) as Grand Sire Archon-Elect; serving on the board of the Port of Oakland; being involved with the United Negro College Fund of the Bay Area; working with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Co-Chair); working with the California League of Conservation Voters; working with the American Association of Blacks in Energy (General Counsel); being involved with the African American Experience Fund of the National Parks Foundation; serving on the U.S. EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; working with the California EPA Environmental Justice Advisory Committee; serving on the National Environmental Policy Commission; and being involved with the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, among many others.

See how Robert Lewis Harris is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Lewis Harris' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the Williams School in Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his father's start as a minister
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his early personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the influence of his elementary school teacher
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the community of Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his father's churches in Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Peake High School in Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his teachers and classmates at Peake High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his decision to move to California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers school integration in Arkansas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers his move to Oakland, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the student body of Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers enrolling in classes at Oakland Technical High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at Oakland Junior College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the demographics of Oakland, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers transferring to San Francisco State College in San Francisco, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role as an officer of the Alameda County Probation Department
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the juvenile probation system in Alameda County, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his decision to attend law school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his first year at the University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at the University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his position on the California Law Review
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his second year at the University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers his summer work experiences during law school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls joining the legal department of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Frederick Searls and Richard Clarke
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his first legal case at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his first legal case on corporate free speech
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the case of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the decision of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the energy crisis
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his legal work for the NAACP
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls how he was chosen to argue the case of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the precedent set by Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the Charles Houston Bar Association
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the creation of the Charles Houston Bar Association Foundation, Inc.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Benjamin Travis
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Earl B. Dickerson
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his time management skills
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role in the National Bar Association
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the past presidents of the National Bar Association
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the history of the National Bar Association
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role in funding African American bar associations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon his leadership skills
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his concerns for African American organizations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the history of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about W.E.B. Du Bois' involvement with the Boule
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon the state of education in the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his transition to the operating division of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role as the central division manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the Oakland firestorm of 1991, pt. 1
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the Oakland firestorm of 1991, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the contamination of the water supply in Hinkley, California
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his career at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the blackouts of 2001 in California
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his family
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon the importance of history