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Sydney Justin Harris papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Harris

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection contains correspondence, works (including clippings of Harris' "Strictly Personal" columns), book and drama reviews, speeches, magazine articles, readers' letters, and some personal materials including publicity and photographs. Also includes cassette tapes and a film-strip set based on Harris' "Winners and Losers" column.


  • Creation: 1933-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1975-1985



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Sydney Justin Harris papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Sydney Justin Harris papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Sydney J. Harris

Chicago newspaper columnist, educator, and author.

Sydney Justin Harris was born in London, England on September 14, 1917. At the age of five, the Harris family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Chicago around 1922. He began his newspaper career at the Chicago Herald-Examiner while still a philosophy student at the University of Chicago.

Harris spent two years as associate editor for an encyclopedia, edited his own magazine The Beacon, and worked as a researcher at the City of Chicago Law Department before joining the Chicago Daily News as a reporter and feature writer in 1941. In 1944, he began publishing his daily column, "Strictly Personal," which he continued to write for the next 40 years. He was also the drama critic for the News starting in 1946. In "Strictly Personal," Harris used his background in philosophy and research to write about the contemporary world, human behavior, religion, hypocrisy, and artistic endeavor in an intellectual, yet folksy manner. He generated a huge fan base which wrote him thousands of impassioned letters, agreeing or disagreeing with his opinions. He held several controversial views, including supporting reproductive choice, prison reform, and a less literal interpretation of the bible.

Harris moved his "Strictly Personal" column to the Chicago Sun-Times following the demise of the Daily News in 1978. In addition to his newspaper work, he led Great Books courses at the University of Chicago, was on the faculty of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, and lectured at colleges, clubs, and universities. His columns were compiled in several books including Majority of One, Last Things First, and The Best of Sydney J. Harris.

Harris was married twice, first to Grace Miller, whom he divorced in 1951, and then to Patricia Roche in 1953. Their meeting is described in her obituary: Roche was a stewardess and a model when she read a "Strictly Personal" column that infuriated her because she thought it was sexist. She went down to the Chicago Daily News office to confront Harris. Having had her say, "she spun on her heels and walked out of the office, leaving him to declare to colleagues, 'That's the woman I'm going to marry.'" They had five children, Carolyn (who unfortunately died at a young age), Michael, Barbara, David, and Lindsay. Sydney Justin Harris died on December 7, 1986 at the age of 69.


18.5 Linear Feet (43 boxes and 1 oversize rolled poster)


Correspondence, clippings, readers' letters, and personal materials of Chicago columnist Sydney Justin Harris.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1933-1986
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Correspondence from Readers, 1951-1986
Boxes 4-24
Series 3: Works, 1939-1987
Boxes 25-40
Series 4: Personal, 1944-1986
Boxes 41-42
Series 5: Photographs and Audiovisual, approximately 1945-1981
Box 43, 1 rolled document

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Collection Stack Location

1 21 6-7


Gift of Patricia Harris, 1987.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen & Shannon Yule, 2007.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Sydney Justin Harris papers, 1933-1987, bulk 1975-1985
Lisa Janssen
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States