Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Robert Harris ’61
Robert Harris is a lawyer, activist, and business executive. Born in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Harris moved to Oakland with his parents in 1960 and finished his high school degree at Tech in 1961. He attended Merritt College and SFSU, and worked as a probation officer for four years before attending the School of Law at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1972. Upon graduation, he took a job at Pacific Gas and Electric where he worked for 34 years, retiring in 2007 as Vice President of Environmental, Health, Technical and Land Service.
In 1985, Harris made headlines when he successfully won a free-speech case at the US Supreme Court on behalf of PG&E. Harris made a name for himself with his leadership in various law societies including acting as president of the National Bar Association from 1970-1980, founding the California Association of Black Lawyers in 1977 and acting as a founding member of the National Bar Association’s funding body.
In 1986, he earned the NAACP’s highest legal honor for his advocacy on behalf of the association. Among his many other civic engagements, he has been the Grand Polemarch (national president) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and is a recipient of its highest honor, the Laurel Wreath. He also has been a Sire Archon (president) of the local Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity branch as well as the fraternity’s Grand Sire Archon (national president).
Additionally, Harris has has been a board member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; the Congressional Black Caucus’s National Energy Policy Commission; the California EPA’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice; the California League of Conservation Voters; and the African American Experience Fund of the National Parks Foundation. He resides in Oakland.