Robert G. Harris Sr. will be celebrating his 96th birthday this September. But that has not slowed him down. The lifelong Fenton resident is currently working on his seventh book. His books provide a narrative history of the “Village of Fenton” throughout the decades. He also penned a novel about the U.S. Marines called “Many Come, Few Are Chosen.”
Harris, a 1941 graduate of Fenton High School went on to earn his Ph.D. and was the commencement speaker for the FHS Class of 1972. At the time, he was president of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
“It was one of the typical commencement speeches,” Harris said. “It did include my feelings that one should enjoy the work they are doing, how terrible to have to go to work hating what you were doing. Also don’t be afraid to change your job or your course of study.
“I told them about the sign I had on my office door that read ‘Remember, Fortune favors the stout of heart,’” he said. “While stationed at the Naval station Point Mugu California in 1949-1950, our little group of Marines would play pool at lunch time. The pool table was in the BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) for the Navy. There was
a sign on the wall that read ‘Rules for Pool.’
“It had items like, ‘Never shoot easy’ and ‘Don’t give up until the balls stop rolling,’” he said. “The last rule was, ‘Remember, Fortune favors the stout of heart.’ I adopted it as my life motto.”
With the 150th commencement for FHS coming up in 2022, Harris smiled and said, “I was going to volunteer to do it again — if they would have me.”
Harris and his late wife, Marie, have two grown children, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. He has lived in the same house his parents owned on Swanee Beach since 1936. World War II started when he was a freshman at Michigan State University. He entered the United States Marine Corps (USMC) officer program and was commissioned in June 1945. He decided to make the Marines his career and served almost 25 years, retiring in October 1965 in order to accept a fellowship at MSU.
He received a bachelor’s degree in math in absentia from MSU in 1956, and received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1957.
In 1968, he received his Ph.D. and soon thereafter became president of Johnson County Community College in Kansas.
He started Harris Financial (on North LeRoy Street in Fenton) in 1980. His son, Bob Jr., joined him after 14 years in the FBI. The business is now run by his grandson, Rob Harris.
“Writing has always been an interest of mine,” he said. “I looked at the library to see what had been written about Fenton. Largely it was about the 1800s, so I decided to do a newspaper research book about my FHS years 1937-1941. Then I had to do a follow-up on the War years 1942-1946, the post war years 1946-1950, Korea and the Cold War 1951-1955, the late 1950s, 1956-1959.”
Harris is currently working on the years 1962-1965. His books are available at Fenton’s Open Book in downtown Fenton.