David Harris (protester)

Harris in Ann Arbor, c. 1972

David Victor Harris (born February 28, 1946, Fresno, California) is an American journalist and author.[1] He is known chiefly for his role as an anti-war activist during the Vietnam War, most notably as a leading opponent of the Draft.

Early life and education

Harris was born in Fresno, California. After graduating from Fresno High School as "Boy of the Year" in 1963,[2] Harris enrolled in Stanford University. He soon became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, traveling through the Deep South to join other students in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Summer voter registration campaign in Mississippi. In 1966, he was elected student body president at Stanford, serving a one-year term. As a counter-protest, Harris's head was forcibly shaved by a gang of masked members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity that had many football players as members and apparently a pro-war outlook.[3] Harris was also future Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's dormitory RA during Romney's sole year at Stanford.[4]

Draft resistance

In 1967, Harris founded an organization called The Resistance, which persuaded young men of draft age to refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System—to return all draft cards, including exemptions and deferments, and refuse to be drafted; and to work together to end the Vietnam War. Within a few years, the Selective Service System discovered that only about half of the men sent draft notices actually showed up for their draft physicals. The number of casual no-shows was too great to prosecute them all—some of them might have made a simple mistake—so the authorities only prosecuted a few leaders of The Resistance. When Harris received his draft notice, he chose neither to report nor to flee to Canada, as draft evaders had frequently done. Harris was arrested in July 1969, and convicted of draft evasion, a federal felony. He was sentenced to a term in Federal Prison. He served about 15 months in various minimum- to medium-security prisons, where he led several hunger strikes: this provided an occasion for transfer to another prison. He was released on parole in October 1970. After his release, he gave talks about the experience. He said: "In prison, I lost my ideals, but not my principles."

Other work

In 1975, Harris ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from a district that included the northern part of Silicon Valley.

At Stanford, Harris was a protégé of Allard K. Lowenstein, a political organizer and later one-term Democratic congressman from New York. In 1968, Lowenstein's Dump Johnson movement resulted in Johnson's refusal to run for re-election. In March 1980, Lowenstein was shot to death by Harris's onetime friend Dennis Sweeney, another Lowenstein protégé. Two years later, Harris wrote the book Dreams Die Hard about his experiences throughout the 1960s and 1970s with Lowenstein and Sweeney and about the events leading up to the shooting. He has written several other books, as well as many articles for the Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine and other periodicals.

In 1986, Harris published The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL. This book focuses on the battle between Pete Rozelle and Al Davis over the 1982 move of the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles. The book also covers several of the National Football League's other controversies of that era.

On October 27, 2004, Harris published a book that drew on rare interviews with American, Iranian, and European participants in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, titled The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah—1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam. In it, Harris tells the story of the 444 days from an insider's perspective.

Marriage and family

Between 1968 and 1973, Harris was married to singer and activist Joan Baez. Baez related the story of his arrest to the audience during one of her performances at the Woodstock Festival, recounting that while Harris was being arrested, anti-Vietnam War protesters were pasting a "resist the draft" bumper sticker on the police car. Having grown apart during his imprisonment, he and Baez separated a few months after his release; they filed for divorce a short while later. Harris and Baez had one son together, Gabriel Harris,[5] born in December 1969. Gabriel attended the private Peninsula School in Menlo Park, which his mother had also attended. Gabriel is a drummer who sometimes tours with his mother.

In October 2009, Harris appeared on a PBS-produced documentary on Baez, How Sweet the Sound, in which he reunited on camera with his former wife to reminisce about their years together, his arrest and the birth of their son.

Harris was married to author and New York Times reporter Lacey Fosburgh from 1975 until her death in 1993. Harris and Fosburgh had one daughter, Sophie Harris.


  1. David Harris, Writer
  2. David Harris, Our War: What We Did in Vietnam and What It Did to Us, Random House, New York, 1996, p.34
  3. Richard W. Lyman (2009) Stanford in Turmoil. (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press), p. 46
  4. Scott Conroy and Laura Strickler (June 7, 2012). "At Stanford, Romney got his bearings in a year of change". CBS News.
  5. Photos of Gabriel Harris

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