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William C. Harris Papers

Identifier: BC269

Scope and Contents

The collection consist of 5 cubic feet of correspondence, meeting notices, and legislative bill summaries and synopses. The collection primarily contains the legislative files of Harris’s last two terms in the Illinois Senate. Not included are files from his first six terms in the Senate or from his three terms in the House of Representatives. Documented in the collection is Harris’s relationship with individuals and organizations concerning legislative issues and the activities of Senate committees of which Harris was a member or in which he had an interest. The Subject File, 1970-1976 (Boxes 1-4), consists primarily of correspondence with individuals, businesses, and associations concerning particular legislative issues. Also included are newspaper clippings from the 1976 primary campaign and invitations. Most of the material dates from 1973 to 1976. An alphabetical arrangement was imposed on the file. Of major importance are the folders containing correspondence on the Equal Rights Amendment, which contain out-of-district and out-of-state correspondence as well as constituent letters. There is also material concerning aid to parochial schools. The Committee Meetings File, 1975-1976 (Boxes 4-5), consists primarily of meeting notices and summaries and synopses of legislative bills to be discussed at the meetings. The file is arranged alphabetically by committee name with meetings arranged chronologically within each committee section. Major committees included are the Committee on Appropriations, Committee on the Executive, Committee on Executive Appointments and Administration, and Committee on Insurance and Licensed Activities. At the end of the collection are four volumes containing photocopies of articles taken from the publication State Government which were of interest to members of Harris’s staff.


  • Created: 1970-1976
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1973-1976

Biographical or Historical Information

William C. Harris, Republican state representative (1955-1960) from the Sixteenth and Forty-First Districts and state senator (1961-1976) from the Sixteenth, Thirty-Seventh, and Thirty-Eighth Districts, was born in Pontiac, Illinois, on May 7, 1921. He graduated from the Pontiac public schools and then enrolled in Michigan State University. He also attended Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Cincinnati College of Embalming. Harris served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was discharged with the rank of chief petty officer. In 1952 he became a livestock farmer and later a district agent for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company. At the time of his elections as a state representative, Harris was a licensed embalmer and a funeral director and partner in Pontiac’s Raleigh J. Harris Funeral Home. In 1954, Harris was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. He served the Sixteenth District from 1955 to 1956 and after reapportionment, the Forty-First District from 1957 to 1960. During his term of office, Harris was a member of a number of committees including Executive, Revenue, and Agriculture. Harris was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1960 where he represented the Sixteenth District (1961-1966), Thirty-Seventh District (1967-1972), and Thirty-Eighth District (1973-1976). He won a three-way Republican primary race for Auditor of Public Accounts in 1968 but was defeated in the general election by Michael Howlett. During his career in the Senate, Harris was honored three times as “Most Effective Senator” (1969, 1973, 1975) and was recognized as a leading authority on state budgeting and finance. He served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (1967-1970), Rules Committee (1973-1974), Illinois Budgetary Commission (1969-1972), and Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission (ca.1973-1974). Between 1967 and 1970 Harris served as Assistant Majority Leader. In 1973 he was the first elected president of Illinois Senate, a position created by the 1970 Illinois Constitution. When the Democrats gained control of the Senate in January 1975, he was elected Senate Minority Leader. Harris was the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in 1976 but was defeated by Democrat Alan Dixon. After leaving the General Assembly, Harris resumed work as an insurance agent. Harris is married to the former Jeanne Turck, and they are the parents of two children, Charles and Barbara. Active in community affairs, Harris has been a member of the Community Advisory Board of Pontiac’s Saint James Hospital, and the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Moose, Pontiac Chamber of Commerce, and Livingston Farm Bureau. He has also been charter president of the Pontiac Jaycees.

Note written by


5.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains correspondence, meeting notices, and legislative bill summaries and synopses documenting Harris’s last two terms in the Illinois Senate. Topics include the Equal Rights Amendment and meetings of the following committees: Appropriations, Executive, Executive Appointments and Administration, and Insurance and Licensed Activities. Harris was Illinois representative (Republican) from sixteenth district (1955-1956) and forty-first district (1957-1960); Illinois senator from sixteenth district (1961-1966), thirty-seventh district (1967-1972), and thirty-eighth (1973-1976). Assistant Senate Majority Leader (1967-1970); chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee (1967-1970); Rules Committee (1973-1974), Illinois Budgetary Commission (1969-1972), and Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission (ca. 1973-1974). Five linear inches of published material was transferred out of the collection,

Arrangement Note

The collection is divided into two series: Series 1, Subject File, 1970-1976, and Series 2, Committee Meetings File, 1975-1976. Both series are arranged alphabetically, and thereunder by date
Archon Finding Aid Title
Rodney W. Meyer and Kendra Ciccone
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

112 North Sixth Street
Springfield IL 62701 US
(217) 558-8923