David Victor Harris born February 28, 1946 in Fresno, California. After becoming an icon in the movement against the Vietnam War, organizing civil disobedience against military conscription and refusing his own orders to report for military duty, for which he was imprisoned for almost two years, Harris went on to a 50 year career as a distinguished journalist and author, reporting national and international stories.
Harris' father, Clifton G. Harris Jr was a lawyer specializing in real estate, his mother, Elaine Jensen Harris, was a housewife and devout Christian Scientist and his brother, Clifton G. Harris III was 18 months older than he. The first of his family to settle in Fresno was his great grandfather, Levi Barringer. His maternal grandfather, Daniel Jensen, was a master woodworker at the Fresno Planing Mill.His paternal grandfather, Clifton G Harris Sr., ran a trunk line railroad that carried ore out of t he Kennecott Copper mines in Magna, Utah until he retired and moved in across the street from David's home., David Harris and his brother both attended Fresno public schools. At Fresno High School, Harris was a football letterman, an honor student, and a champion debater. He was named Fresno High School "Boy of the Year" upon his graduation in 1963,Harris was admitted to Stanford University on scholarship and soon became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In October, 1964 he went to Mississippi as a volunteer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Vote project, In 1966, he was elected student body president at Stanford on a radical platform calling for student control of student regulations, equal rights for men and women students, elimination of the Board of trustees, and an end to the University's cooperation with the Vietnam War. His election was so improbable at the conservative institution Stanford was considered to be at the time that his election made local headlines and accounts of it went out on the wire services, making him instantly the most notorious Student Body President in the country. He became even more notorious in the summer of 1966 when he announced he would refuse to cooperate with the military conscription system that was feeding manpower into the war effort and urged others to do the same. Some six months into his one year term, Harris was kidnapped by a dozen football players and frat boys who forcibly cut off his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to humiliate the "hippie" Student Body President. Arguably, Harris' greatest achievement in student government was a failed rent strike followed by an extended negotiation with the administration that within two years led to equalized treatment of men and women students, eliminated in loco parentis, and transformed Stanford into a genuinely co-ed University. David Harris left Stanford fifteen incomplete units short of his BA in the Honors Program in Social Thought and Institutions.
In 1967, Harris founded The Resistance, an organization advocating civil disobedience against military conscription and against the war the conscription system fed. Through 1967 and 1968, The Resistance staged a series of public draft card returns--an action punishable by up to five years in prison--at which some ten thousand young men confronted the government with their disobedience and courted arrest. Harris himself was ordered to report for military service in January, 1968 and refused. He was indicted almost immediately and charged with felony "disobedience of a lawful order of induction" and tried in Federal court in San Francisco in May, 1968. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, with the judge's admonition that "you may be right but you're going to be punished." After a year of unsuccessfully appealing his conviction, Harris was remanded to "the custody of the Attorney General" in July, 1969 and incarcerated in the Federal Prison System where he spent twenty months before being paroled--one month in San Francisco County Jail, seven months in the Federal Prison Camp at Safford, AZ and twelve months in the Federal Correctional Institution, La Tuna, TX. After his release on March 15, 1971, Harris continued organizing against the Vietnam War until peace agreements were signed in March, 1973.
That same March, Jann Wenner, the legendary founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, gave Harris a try out with the magazine. The result was "Ask A Marine", his account of the life of Ron Kovic, later immortalized in the film Born on the Fourth of July, a story that would be selected for The Best of Rolling Stone, a collection of stories published on the magazine's twentieth anniversary. It also earned Harris a contributing editor's contract and marked the beginning of his more than forty year career as a national and international magazine journalist. In 1978, Harris signed a contributing editor contract with The New York Times Magazine, where he worked for the next decade. After his stint with The Times, Harris concentrated on writing books, publishing eleven:
Goliath (1971) was a memoir of his work with the peace movement and his trial for draft resistance.
I Shoulda Been Home Yesterday: Twenty Months In Prison for Not Killing Anybody (1976) was an account of his imprisonment.
The Last Scam (1980) was a novel about marijuana smugglers in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Dreams Die Hard: Three Men's Journey Through The Sixties (1983) recounted the story of three men who were all friends in the anti war movement, one of whom ended up killing one of the others ten years later.
The League: the Rise and Decline of the NFL (1986) investigated the struggle for power between the owners and commissioner of the National Football League.
The Last Stand: the War Between Wall Street and Main Street Over California's Ancient Redwoods (1995) tracked the takeover of a northern California lumber company and the environmental war it set off.
Our War: What We Did In Vietnam and What It Did To Us (1996) revisited the war in Vietnam at the age of 50.
Shooting The Moon: The True Story of an American Manhunt Unlike Any Other, Ever (2001) told the story of the investigation and arrest of General Manuel Noriega, dictator of Panama.
The Crisis: The President, the Prophet and the Shah--1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam (2004) recreated the Iran Hostage Crisis on its twenty fifth anniversary.
The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty (2008) tracked the career of the football coach, Bill Walsh.
My Country Tis of Thee: Reporting, Sallies, and Other Confessions (2020) is a collection of Harris' magazine and other short form nonfiction.
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,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 The New York Times reporter Lacey Fosburgh from 1975 until her death in 1993. Harris and Fosburgh had one daughter, Sophie Harris.
Conscription is the mandatory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and it continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–8 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.
Joan Chandos Baez is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest and social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.
The Selective Service System (SSS) is an independent agency of the United States government that maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription and carries out contingency planning and preparations for two types of draft: a general draft based on registration lists of men aged 18-25, and a special-skills draft based on professional licensing lists of workers in specified health care occupations. In the event of either type of draft, the Selective Service System would send out induction notices, adjudicate claims for deferments or exemptions, and assign draftees classified as conscientious objectors to alternative service work. All male U.S. citizens and immigrant non-citizens who are between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to have registered within 30 days of their 18th birthdays, and must notify the Selective Service within ten days of any changes to any of the information they provided on their registration cards, such as a change of address. The Selective Service System is a contingency mechanism for the possibility that conscription becomes necessary.
Draft evasion is any successful attempt to elude a government-imposed obligation to serve in the military forces of one's nation. Sometimes draft evasion involves refusing to comply with the military draft laws of one's nation. Illegal draft evasion is said to have characterized every military conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries, in which at least one party of such conflict has enforced conscription. Such evasion is generally considered to be a criminal offense, and laws against it go back thousands of years.
On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System of the United States conducted two lotteries to determine the order of call to military service in the Vietnam War for men born from January 1, 1944 to December 31, 1950. These lotteries occurred during a period of conscription in the United States that lasted from 1947 to 1973. It was the first time a lottery system had been used to select men for military service since 1942.
Conscription in Australia, or mandatory military service also known as National Service, has a controversial history dating back to the first years of nationhood. Australia currently only has provisions for conscription during times of war when authorised by the governor-general and approved within 90 days by both houses of parliament as outlined in Part IV of the Defence Act 1903.
Military service is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job (volunteer) or as a result of an involuntary draft (conscription).
Conscription in the United States, commonly known as the draft, has been employed by the federal government of the United States in six conflicts: the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The fourth incarnation of the draft came into being in 1940 through the Selective Training and Service Act. It was the country's first peacetime draft. From 1940 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the United States Armed Forces that could not be filled through voluntary means. Active conscription came to an end in 1973 when the United States Armed Forces moved to an all-volunteer military. However, conscription remains in place on a contingency basis and all male U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, residing within the United States, who are 18 through 25 are required to register with the Selective Service System. United States federal law also continues to provide for the compulsory conscription of men between the ages of 17 and 45 and certain women for militia service pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution and 10 U.S. Code § 246.
The Chicano Moratorium, formally known as the National Chicano Moratorium Committee Against The Vietnam War, was a movement of Chicano anti-war activists that built a broad-based coalition of Mexican-American groups to organize opposition to the Vietnam War. Led by activists from local colleges and members of the Brown Berets, a group with roots in the high school student movement that staged walkouts in 1968, the coalition peaked with a August 29, 1970 march in East Los Angeles that drew 30,000 demonstrators. The march was described by scholar Lorena Oropeza as "one of the largest assemblages of Mexican Americans ever." It was the largest anti-war action taken by any single ethnic group in the USA. It was second in size only to the massive U.S. immigration reform protests of 2006.
Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War began with demonstrations in 1964 against the escalating role of the United States in the Vietnam War and grew into a broad social movement over the ensuing several years. This movement informed and helped shape the vigorous and polarizing debate, primarily in the United States, during the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s on how to end the war.
The Catonsville Nine were nine Catholic activists who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968, they went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured over them homemade napalm, and set them on fire.
Opposition to World War I included socialist, anarchist, syndicalist, and Marxist groups on the left, as well as Christian pacifists, Canadian and Irish nationalists, women's groups, intellectuals, and rural folk.
James Peck was an American activist who practiced nonviolent resistance during World War II and in the Civil Rights Movement. He is the only person who participated in both the Journey of Reconciliation (1947) and the first Freedom Ride of 1961, and has been called a white civil rights hero. Peck advocated nonviolent civil disobedience throughout his life, and was arrested more than 60 times between the 1930s and 1980s.
Draft-card burning was a symbol of protest performed by thousands of young men in the United States and Australia in the 1960s and early 1970s. The first draft-card burners were American men taking part in the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The first well-publicized protest was in December 1963, with a 22-year old conscientious objector, Eugene Keyes, setting fire to his card on Christmas Day in Champaign, Illinois. In May 1964, a larger demonstration, with about 50 people in Union Square, New York, was organized by the War Resisters League chaired by David McReynolds.
Gary Eugene Rader was an American Army Reservist known for burning his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War, while wearing his U.S. Army Special Forces uniform. Afterward, he engaged in anti-war activism.
The Fort Hood Three were three soldiers of the US Army – Private First Class James Johnson, Jr. Private David A. Samas, and Private Dennis Mora – who refused to be deployed to Vietnam in June 30, 1966. This was the first public refusal of orders to Vietnam, and one of the earliest acts of resistance to the war from within the U.S. military. Their refusal was widely publicized and became a cause célèbre within the growing antiwar movement. They filed a federal suit against Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor to prevent their shipment to Southeast Asia and were court-martialed by the Army for insubordination.
Ira Sandperl was an American anti-war activist and educator. He influenced students and heroes of the anti-war, civil rights, and peace movements, including Martin Luther King Jr., David Harris, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Ellsberg, Thomas Merton, and Joan Baez with whom he formed the Institute for the Study of Non-violence. Sandperl became a national figure in the antiwar movement of the 1960s, according to New York Times reporter and longtime friend John Markoff.
Draft evasion in the Vietnam War was a common practice in the United States and in Australia. Significant draft avoidance was taking place even before the U.S. became heavily involved in the Vietnam War. The large cohort of Baby Boomers allowed for a steep increase in the number of exemptions and deferments, especially for college and graduate students. According to peace studies scholar David Cortright, more than half of the 27 million men eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War were deferred, exempted, or disqualified.
Vietnam War resisters in Canada were American draft evaders and military deserters who found refuge from prosecution in Canada. American war resisters who sought refuge in Canada during the Vietnam War would ignite controversy among those seeking to immigrate to Canada. According to scholar Valerie Knowles, draft evaders were typically college-educated and middle class who could no longer defer induction into the Selective Service System. Deserters were usually lower-income and working class who had been inducted into the armed services right after high school or had later volunteered, hoping to obtain a skill and broaden their limited horizons.