Compiled by Courier Staff
In this year’s issue of The Milwaukee Courier’s special Black History Issue, we want to not only put a spotlight on national Black History accomplishments, but local as well.
African American history in Milwaukee needs to continue to be recorded, and not only for one month out of the year, but everyday. That is one of the reasons that we have the Black Press, because no other media outlet can write the African American living experience more effective than African American news media.
James and Lucy Mae Harris were chosen this year for one of our Black History highlights. The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage back in 1997, still united today in 2013 they are currently in their 66th year of marriage.
Besides their long union of marriage which is an accomplishment on its own, there are other notable points of accomplishment from this couple.
Like thousands of African Americans who participated in the great migration from the South to the North, James eventually moved North. He was originally from a small town called Grenada, Mississippi, a town laid between Tupelo and Greenwood. By the age of 19 James grew tired of working for 50 cents a day at the sawmill. He joined the Army, and after serving in the Pacific as a corporal where he received the Bronze Star.
Following his service he returned home, and met Lucy Mae at a cafe while sipping a soda water. The two were married after a six month courtship. They built a house on a small farm. Farming did not turn out to be his passion, so he gave in to pleas from his brother and his wife to come and scout for jobs in Milwaukee. He did.
Finding a job at the Greenebaum Tannery wasn’t the dream job, and he was ready to go back South after three days of working there. “It stank so much I wrote back, but my wife wrote back and told me to try harder. After a while, I got another job and sent for her”. James said.
He left his brother and mother with his house, horses, and cows and moved to Milwaukee for good. He went on to work several other jobs in Milwaukee. He retired from Advance Tool and Die company after 22 years.
For many years the couple were both active in their church, Morris Church of God and Christ, James was a deacon, and a member of the trustee board while Lucy Mae sang in the choir for years and is a past president of the Pastor Aid Club and Hospitality group. The couple currently are members of New Beginning Church under the direction of Pastor Green Jackson.
The Harris Family consists of 5 sons and 4 daughters, along with a host of grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In addition to his Bronze Star mention earlier, Corporal James Harris, Sr. also earned several citations and decorations such as the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star, Victory Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star, 2 overseas Service bars and a Philippine Independence Ribbon during his service from July 1944 until Oct. 1946.
This couple’s story is just an example of what it took to begin a life traveling from the South to the North and raise a family. Thousands of Milwaukeeans did it, and today our young people need to know the history.