A MESSAGE FROM THE FAMILY

Seating in Chapel limited to under 50 people - face masks are required for those in attendance.
OBITUARY

Robert "Bob" Bruce Harris

December 19, 1958September 12, 2020

Robert “Bob” Bruce Harris, 61, passed away on September 12, 2020 in the comfort of his home. Born on December 19, 1958 in Bristol, TN; he was the son of the late Dr. James Ray Harris and Elena Bessolo Harris and he was the brother of James Wayne Harris, of Raleigh.

Bob graduated with honors from Hale High School (now St. David’s HS) and NC State University, with a degree in Economics and Finance. He worked with the NC Congressional Club until its disbandment and then became a freelance consultant.

The family would like to extend deep appreciation for the wonderful caregivers and medical personnel that have assisted with Bob’s care over the years.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, September 17, 2020 from 1-2 pm at Mitchell Funeral Home. Liturgy of the Word will begin at 2 pm in the funeral home chapel (seating limited to 50 people), with a committal service to follow at Raleigh Memorial Park. Live Streaming will be offered for those choosing to attend virtually through the Facebook page of Mitchell Funeral Home at Raleigh Memorial Park beginning at 1:55 pm. (See Hyperlink below in the Service Box)

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Bob's memory can be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

If you would like to leave a message of condolence to the family, you may do so below within "add a memory".

Services

  • Visitation

    Thursday, September 17, 2020

  • Funeral Service

    Thursday, September 17, 2020

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Memories

Robert "Bob" Bruce Harris

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Walker Walker

September 17, 2020

Rest in Peace Bob. You will be missed

Deacon Donald R. Freeman Jr

September 17, 2020

My deepest condolences to the family and the Caregivers whom I met through my sister Patricia Hawkins. May the Comfort of God rest with you all during this time if sorrow! Grace, Peace and Bountiful Blessings from God our Father the Lord Jesus Christ!!!

Lexus Sanders Njie

September 16, 2020

Bob was a beautiful man. My mom, Sharon Sanders, was his nurse since I was 4 years old, and he truly adored all of her kids. He would listen to her stories about us and eventually it’s like we became his family. He would ask about us, give us gifts, and always cheer for us on the sidelines. When I went to college he paid for my books my first year. I could always feel how proud of me he was. When I went to law school, he kept saying how much he couldn’t get wait until I graduated. I hate he did not get to see that day. But I know he will be with me in spirit. My family and I will always love and cherish Bob. He was a kind man, a giving man, and a God fearing man. May his soul Rest In Peace and feel our love forever.

Debra Blyther

September 16, 2020

Bob
May the light that shined so brightly in you live on in the people who knew you and loved you. You will be missed.


My condolences to the family. May the lord be with you.

Kevin Patterson

September 15, 2020

I had the privilege of working with Bob from 1987-1996. He was one of the smartest people I have ever known. Successful businessmen used to seek Bob’s advice on stocks, then Bob would have me go to the library to get some research to help him. I asked Bob what he knew that caused these men to seek his advice. He said he didn’t know anything but if I was interested, read William O’Neil’s “How To Make Money In Stocks” and Investor’s Business Daily. Best advice I’ve ever been given. It began a now 23-year passion for me in following the stock market. Thankful I knew Bob Harris.

Kevin Patterson

Sam Currin

September 15, 2020

Bob was one of the smartest people I ever met and a true blessing to all who knew him. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

Chris Farr

September 15, 2020

To the Family of Bob Harris--

I worked at the Congressional Club in 1984-86. Bob had a huge impact on all that we accomplished there. I know he will be missed by many people. What a legacy he left behind! Condolences and blessings to you.

hood ellis

September 14, 2020

Bob was a true hero and patriot. My father, Tom Ellis considered Bob the brains behind the success of every political campaign they joined hands and participated in. He loved Bob like a son. God's gain, our loss. - Hood Ellis

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Biography

‘The Stephen Hawking of conservatives:’ NC’s Bob Harris wielded political influence
BY JIM MORRILL, of the Charlotte Observer

SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 08:00 AM Online Article in the News & Observer

Bob Harris, a Republican researcher from North Carolina, in an undated photograph. He died Saturday at his Raleigh home. COURTESY OF THE HARRIS FAMILY.

For decades Bob Harris was one of the most influential, if little-known, operatives in North Carolina politics.

His prodigious research formed the basis for TV ads for Sen. Jesse Helms and other Republicans. He advised presidential campaigns and helped his party topple at least one national Democratic leader.

But what Harris did wasn’t as remarkable as how he did it.

He had muscular dystrophy since childhood and was bedridden with paraplegia starting in his 20s, without use of his limbs or voice. Eventually, he communicated through electronic sensors in his eyebrows that activated a computer keyboard, letter by letter.

“The man is a genius,” Republican strategist Jim Blaine told The Charlotte Observer in an interview. “I refer to him as the Stephen Hawking of conservatives.”

Harris died Saturday at his home in Raleigh. He was 61.

Harris had just graduated from N.C. State in the late 1970s when he went into the offices of the National Congressional Club, the organization behind Helms and a string of conservative Republicans. Still in a wheelchair, he began as a volunteer for the senator’s 1978 campaign and was later hired as a researcher to pore through packets of news clippings.

Two years later, he worked on the Club-managed campaign of John East, a college professor who used a wheelchair because of his polio. Then, in 1984, Harris worked on Helms’ re-election campaign against Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt — the costliest Senate race in American history at the time.

That’s how Harris caught the attention of CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

“This 26-year-old who’s in a hospital bed ... in his own home is one of the real brains and inspirations of the Congressional Club,” Mike Wallace told viewers in a 1985 broadcast. “Frankly, when we first heard about Bob Harris, we didn’t know whether to believe what we were told about this young man at the end of a degenerative cycle of muscular dystrophy. But according to the men who run the Congressional Club, (he’s) a critical figure in most aspects of their political crusade.”

‘WHERE DO YOU STAND?’
Carter Wrenn, then the Club’s executive director, said Harris came up with a catch phrase that became ubiquitous in the race against Hunt. Researching Hunt’s record, Harris found what he saw as a pattern of inconsistencies.

“You know, Hunt is vulnerable; he flip-flops on the issues,” Harris told Club Chairman Tom Ellis, according to an account Ellis gave “60 Minutes.” “You don’t know where he stands.”

After that, “Where do you stand, Jim?” became a standard tagline on Helms’ TV commercials.

Helms then ran against Democrat Harvey Gantt, Charlotte’s first Black mayor, in 1990. Wrenn told the Observer Harris came up with the research that led to the campaign ad that featured a pair of white hands crumpling a job rejection letter while a narrator said, “You needed that job, but they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.”

Harris’s work became known outside North Carolina.

GOP pollster John McLaughlin introduced the Helms team to Steve Forbes, who was planning to run for president in 1996. That’s how Forbes met Harris.

“It was amazing how he could interpret news, interpret data and create strategy,” Forbes said Tuesday in an interview with the Observer. “He was one of those rare individuals who could see around the corner and visualize things the rest of us could not. And he did so under the most difficult conditions conceivable.”

In 2004, McLaughlin hired Harris to research for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They knocked off seven Democrat incumbents that year, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

“He knew how to take an issue that no one was paying attention to and turn it into a deciding issue in a political campaign,” McLaughlin told the Observer. “He would dive into the details of their records and then come back with things he thought would make a difference.”

AN IDEA FROM HAWKING
For years, Harris’s mother Elena acted as his translator. He would say things through an electronic voice box that almost nobody but she could understand. She would scribble them in shorthand and then transcribe them. When she died in 2001, he lost his main means of communication.

That’s when Wrenn read a book by Stephen Hawking, the late English theoretical physicist who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. In the book, Hawking acknowledged a company that helped him with a speech generating device. Wrenn called Hawking’s office in Britain and found the name of the company, which happened to be in Silicon Valley.

Wrenn arranged for somebody with the company to come to Harris’s bedside in Raleigh. As Wrenn recalls, the man put a computer mouse next to Harris’s hand and asked him if he could touch it. No, Harris said. At one point Harris raised his eyebrows in exasperation.

“The guy said, ‘You can move your eyebrows?’” Wrenn recalled. That led to the eyebrow sensors that gave him a new way to talk.

Wrenn said Harris not only was able to absorb facts but connect them.

“He was great at parsing out the ones that mattered,” Wrenn said. “In terms of the things most people do every day — like watch TV, read a book, walk outside — his world was about information.”

Blaine, the GOP strategist, said, “His genius was he would connect these things in just ways that were absolutely masterful. Things that you’d think had nothing to do with each other.”

Forbes said he found Harris inspirational, a man who overcame a lifetime of infirmities to make his mark.

“He was a vacuum for news and information,” Forbes said. “If the candidate could have been as good at running as Bob was at advising, we’d be talking from my presidential library.”


Written by Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.

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