Paul Harris' Life Stages

Growing Up

Harris was born on 19 April 1868 to George H. and Cornelia Bryan Harris in Racine, Wisconsin, USA. George attempted to support his family as a small-business owner but he often relied on his father for financial assistance. In July 1871 that reliance became permanent when Harris and his older brother, Cecil, were sent to live with their paternal grandparents in Wallingford, Vermont. Harris later wrote, “Of all charges which might have been made against George and Cornelia, parsimony would have stood the least chance. They were both royal spenders.”

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Life In Chicago

After Princeton, Harris made his way to Iowa, where he found his professional calling working at the law firm of St. John, Stevenson, and Whisenand in Des Moines. After his apprenticeship, he attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in June 1891. In 1896 Harris settled in Chicago, where he opened a law practice in the central business district. He remained active in his professional practice for more than four decades.

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Life with Jean

Harris met Jean Thomson, Scottish-born daughter of John and Ann Younson Thomson, during an outdoor excursion of what would later become the Prairie Club. “One beautiful March Saturday in 1910 I joined my fellow Prairians on an Elgin and Aurora electric train bound west. I was a bachelor and quite open-minded on the matrimonial subject. That is to say, I had never closed my mind and heart to the possibilities of conjugal bliss … Here is where she came in, blythe, bonny Jean.”

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The End of an Era

In December 1945, the Harrises travelled to Tuskegee, Alabama, for the winter months, a trip they had made many times. In early 1946 Harris contracted influenza. Chesley R. Perry, a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago and Rotary’s general secretary from 1910 to 1942, travelled to Tuskegee.

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