Wednesday, January 11, 2012
1848-1943, John Williamson Harris, Head of Confederate Veterans
This is just one of the many newspaper clippings saved by Virginia Shumate Moran. The article appeared in the Memphis Press Scimitar in 1938. John Williamson Harris was born in Tennessee in 1848. His grandparents were Williamson Harris and Elizabeth Battle Perry. John's sister, Harriet Harris, married John Henderson Moran which makes him my husbands first cousin three times removed. He and his family moved to Oklahoma probably sometime after 1880. His wife was Susan Corilla Wall. They had five children Eva Harris, John Williamson Harris Jr, Edna Harris, Albert Harris and Bessie Harris. His parents were Albert Gallatin Harris and Lucy Pernecia Gilbert.
90 Year Old Head of Confederate Vets, A Teetotaler, Will introduce Liquor Bill
At Next Session of Legislature In Oklahoma
By Ada Gilkey
Press Scimitar Staff Writer
A 90 year old teetotaler by choice, General John W. Harris, newly elected commander of the United Confederate Veterans, plans to introduce a local option liquor bill in the Oklahoma Legislature at its next session.
"We're drinking bad whisky and drinking it illegally-feeling like we're stealing," General Harris declared yesterday. "We might as well drink good whisky, drink it legally, and get for Oklahoma some of the whisky revenue that's now going to Arkansas."
The general, guest of Mr. and Mrs. Ben C. Mathes, 1188 Minna, used the editorial "we," but he has no notion of partaking of strong drink, legally or illegally.
"Drank so much as a young man that I'm preserved," he said humorously. "My stomach's copper-lined I do believe. But some years ago I decided I'd cut out drinking and I did-just like that!"-snapping his fingers.
Honored By UDC
Seven chapters of United Daughters of the Confederacy honored him with a reception at Hotel Gayoso yesterday. He "went home" to the Mathes residence to put on a white shirt for the event. Earlier in the day, he saw the sights and visited The Press-Scimitar wearing a sporty blue plaid shirt and a polka-dot tie with his long-tailed, gold braided uniform and gold-banded felt hat.
The general was born at McKenzie, Tenn., and is proud of it.
"Must you know how old I am?" he asked joikingly. "You see, I'm a widower! Born in '48 and this is '38. That makes me 90 years young."
General Harris farmed at McKenzie for some time after the war, then traveled for a Louisville wholesale firm before going to Oklahoma City, where he has oil interests and is commissioner of the state pension board. He works regularly from 8:30a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. His wife and three children died some years ago.
More Reunions? "Sure!"
"I want to do what I can for the veterans," he said. "Alfalfa Bill Murray cut the veterans' pensions in Oklahoma from $40 to $29 a month. I'm going to try to get it raised again. I'm also interested in making the next reunion a good reunion. Where it will be ought to be settled in the next two weeks. I favor Trinidad, Col. No more reunions? They've been saying that for the last 20 years--and we're going to have them as long as any of us is able to go."
The general had "an elegant time" at the joint reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers at Gettysburg.
"we joshed one another," he relates. "I told those Yanks, 'There're 1500 of you and only 500 of us. We'll get in a bunch and forgive you all at one time. According to numbers present, we have to do three times as much forgiving as you."
The general gets winded when he gives the rebel yell, but he obliged with the Indian yell he and fellow soldiers used mostly. With friends, he visited Reelfoot yesterday, driving from McKenzie in two hours. The trip in war times took two days!
An orderly for Colonel Greer in Buford's Division under Forrest's command, General Harris carried hundreds of dispatches for General Forrest as well as his colonel. He lost one, but he was supposed to. It was a ruse to throw off pursuing Union soldiers with misinformation.
"General Forrest was the greatest cavalry leader in the history of all wars because he didn't fight according to rules," he said. "He didn't have a military education and he made up his own rules as he went along. He fooled the enemy all the time. He didn't ask his men to go where he wouldn't go-he always led."
General Harris had a good horse and was a hard rider, frequently making 40 miles overnight. He weighed only 96 pounds and today only weighs 116, but is 5 feet 10 1-2 inches tall.
"The war lasted as long as it did because our mothers, wives and sweethearts stayed home and encouraged us and we fought as long as we could get anything to eat," General Harris said. "I never drew a cent from the Confederacy--was never given a thing except a plug of tobacco and I didn't chew, so I gave it to some of the boys who did."