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Social activist Jim Harris lived for truth and justice, and died Friday, June 3, 2011, released from his struggle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. Founder of the internet letter writing cooperative, Progressive Secretary (with Pat Murphy), he made lobbying for peace and justice easier. Committed to working for social justice throughout his life, he started Progressive Secretary in 1997 as he was recovering from leukemia, and he said that work helped him get well and also heal from subsequent lymphoma. Currently, Progressive Secretary has nearly 4500 members and is still working for a better world for all.

Self identifying as a Jew, a Quaker, an atheist, and a Marxist, Jim Harris was a member of the Sacramento Friends Meeting, and previously was a member of the San Jose Meeting. As a young student, Jim joined the Civil Rights movement, going to Mississippi to help SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and was, as he put it, “a foot soldier” in the movement.  Earning a Master’s degree (MS) in electrical engineering at Columbia University, he was a computer consultant, software developer, programmer, teacher, union organizer, and worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. In the 1980’s and1990’s, he was President of a trade school, Technical Training Center in San Jose which trained students for the computer industry. He created an innovative curriculum in which students with minimal education backgrounds could get the equivalency of a two year associate’s degree in six months and be placed in good jobs.

A gifted musician, Jim played a number of instruments, including trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, piano, penny whistle, and tuba. In recent years, he played with a number of local Dixieland bands, including Jerry Kahale’s Good Time Levee Stompers, Billie and Her Buddies, and Ned’s Jazzboat Shuffle. He played Jewish music with Bennie Benjamini, and Klezmer, the soul music of Eastern European Jews, in groups with others, including good friends Joe Liebling, Corey Weinstein, and Robin Goodfellow.

Born Nov 13, 1940, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Mac and Rebecca (Goldie) Harris, he lived in California from the age of three, growing up in San Francisco and Oakland. He is survived by older brother, Jerry Harris, sister-in-law Connie Harris, daughter Diana Harris-Quinones and granddaughter Amalia Ferrer-Quinones, partner Cathy Hodge McCoid, nephews, nieces, and many friends. He was preceded in death by his brother Jack.

A Quaker memorial service will be held at noon Sunday June 12, at the Sacramento Friends Meeting House, 890 57th St, Sacramento, with socializing and snacks before and after. In the afternoon, there will be a gathering at his home (9153 Rundelay Way, Sacramento, CA 95826) for reflection, music, and potluck food, from 3:00 to 7 pm. (For other information, contact Billie Hamilton at 916-451-7614.)


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