Murray Lee Harris, 96, of Tyler, died Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014, at Mother Frances Hospital after a short hospitalization for pneumonia. He was born in Yowell, Delta County, Sept. 16, 1917, to William Womack Harris and Ruth Miller Harris. He was raised in Corsicana, one of five siblings and of 13 cousins in a close-knit family.
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After attending The University of Texas, he followed in his father's footsteps and pursued a legal career, graduating from Texas Law School in 1942. He then served as navigator for four years in the U.S. Navy aboard oil and gas tanker ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II, rising to the rank of first lieutenant.
Afterwards he joined his father in private practice in Quitman for several years until his election to Wood County attorney in 1951 through 1952. From 1953 to 1957, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney under William M. Steger in Tyler. During this period he married Ruth Reavley of Nacogdoches and they had two children, Brent and Ruth. He eventually left this office to return to private practice in Orange, where he partnered with Frank Hustmyre. He enjoyed his legal practice in Orange from 1957 to 1974, at which time he was appointed clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. He served in this capacity under U.S. District Judge Joe Fisher until 1980 when U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, a law school classmate of his, became chief judge and the clerk's post was moved to Tyler. He continued as district clerk in Tyler until 1992, when he assumed duties as special assistant to Chief Judge Robert M. Parker, a position he held until 1994.
Retirement allowed for more time with friends and family, particularly his brothers, the Rev. Marion Harris and William Wesley Harris, with whom he shared a love of raising Tennessee walking horses. A lifelong Baptist, he served as deacon and taught Sunday school at First Baptist churches in Orange and Tyler for many decades. With memories large and small of the Great Depression and World War II, tempered by the love of and for family, friends and the Lord, he combined the understanding of a realist with an optimistic outlook, resulting in a view of life thoroughly imbued with insight, irony and humor.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth, in 2003; siblings, William Wesley Harris, the Rev. Marion Harris and Elizabeth Harris Ayers; brother-in-law, the Rev. J.T. Ayers; and sister-in-law, Florence Wilson Reavley.
He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Brent Reavley Harris and Deborah Rhodes Harris, of Tyler, their children, Matthew Rhodes Harris and Meredith Lee Harris; and his daughter and son-in-law, Ruth Lee Harris Yeager and Glenn Barnett Yeager, of Tyler, and their children, Jordan Harris Yeager, Callie Ruth Yeager and Austin Thomas Yeager. He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, JoAnn Harris Means and Terry Means, of Aledo; sisters-in-law, Julia Ben Majors Harris, of Dallas, and Eleanor Lee Harris, of Tyler; brother-in-law, Thomas Morrow Reavley, of Houston; his cousin, Frances Harris Mahoney, of Seguin; as well as by many nieces, nephews and other relatives.
Honorary pallbearers will be his grandsons, Matt Harris, Jordan Yeager and Austin Yeager, and his nephews, Majors Harris, Wes Harris, Tom Harris, Tim Harris, Robert Means, Tom Reavley and Paul Reavley.
Graveside services will be in Rose Hill Cemetery, 2400 S. Donnybrook Ave., in Tyler, on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at 11 a.m.
A memorial service will be at First Baptist Church of Tyler, 301 W. Ferguson St., in Tyler on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at 2 p.m.
Memorial donations may be made to First Baptist Church of Tyler.
Published in Tyler Morning Telegraph from Apr. 22 to Apr. 23, 2014