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Whitney R. Harris

Whitney and Jane Harris

Whitney R. Harris (August 12, 1912 - April 21, 2010)

Whitney Harris received his AB (magna cum laude) from the University of Washington in 1933. He passed the Bar exam in California in 1936 and worked in general practice from 1936-1942 and for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1945. From 1946-1948, he was Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University and a solicitor for Southwestern Bell from 1955-1965. He practiced law in St. Louis from 1965-1989 and was appointed as a Senior Counselor to the Missouri Bar Association in 1987.

He played a key role as the assistant U.S. prosecutor at the international military tribunal in 1945-1946 that tried leaders of Nazi Germany of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Harris questioned Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp and Otto Ohlendorf a chief in one of Germany's Special Action groups. Whitney Harris retained a keen interest in international law relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 1998, Harris was a delegate to the United Nations-sponsored Rome conference that resulted in the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. In December, 2001, Washington University, St. Louis, renamed its Institute for Global Legal Studies in his honor. In 2005, he was a keynote speaker at a conference in Chautauqua, NY: Sixty years after the Nuremberg Trials: Crimes against humanity and peace.

Whitney Harris described his post-war experiences in his book "Tyranny on Trial" published by Southern Methodist University Press in 1954 with new editions in 1995 and 1999. He has also published "Family Law" (1953) and "Law, Culture and Value" (1989) and contributed numerous articles to legal journals.

Whitney Harris was decorated with the Legion of Merit, Order of Merit, Officer's Cross (Germany), and Medal of the War Crimes Commission (Poland). He received much recognition for his charitable work including awards from the National Society of Fund Raising Executives, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Arthritis Society, Asthma and Allergy Society, National Jewish Hospital, and Washington University.

He served on the Board of Governors of the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library and was a trustee of the National Jewish Center from 1980-1990. He was a member of the American Bar Association and chaired the International Law Section (1953-1954) and the Administrative Law Section (1960-1961) of the ABA. He served as President of the St. Louis Japan-American Society and he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Psi and Delta Theta Phi.

His philanthropy resulted in the establishment of the Jane and Whitney Harris Research Library at the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in Fulton, Missouri; Jane and Whitney Harris Reading Rooms at St. Louis Country Day School and Washington University; Jane and Whitney Harris Annual Research Fellowship in Arthritis (Washington University School of Medicine); Jane and Whitney Harris Annual Lecture on Tropical Ecology (University of Missouri-St. Louis); Jane and Whitney Harris Secret Garden (Missouri Botanical Garden); Jane and Whitney Harris Child Care Room (Junior League of St. Louis); and Whitney and Anna Harris Conservation Forum (University of Missouri-St. Louis). He was a founding member of the Development Board (now the Harris Center Council) of the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and through a generous gift in 2006, the Center was renamed the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center.

Whitney R. Harris leaves lasting legacy at UMSL