Prominent LA Lobbyist Passes Away At 77
Jim Harris, a prominent business lobbyist, passed away on Monday at the age of 77 in Baton Rouge after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was a familiar presence at the state Capitol, having worked with legislators over the past 40 years on various issues that benefitted business interests, particularly in the petrochemical industry.
Harris was a partner at Harris DeVille & Associates, a lobbying firm that also represented clients such as CPAs, realtors, pharmaceutical companies, and the New Orleans Fair Grounds. He was known for being genial and gracious, making him a favorite among his clients and colleagues.
Born and raised in Franklin, Louisiana, Harris started his career as a newsreader for a local radio station before attending the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. However, he did not complete his degree as he was busy with multiple part-time jobs. Harris went on to become a talk-show radio host at WJBO in Baton Rouge, where his deep, radio voice caught the attention of Gus Weill, a legendary political operative who hired him to be the press secretary for Gov. Edwin Edwards' re-election campaign in 1975. Following Edwards' victory, Harris served as the governor's press secretary and later worked in economic development for the next governor, David Treen, before transitioning to a full-time lobbyist.
Harris was a well-respected figure in Louisiana politics, and his colleagues remembered him fondly. Dan Borne, who first worked with Harris in the Edwards administration, said that "he didn't have any enemies" and could work with any legislator, regardless of their political affiliation. They later worked together at the Louisiana Chemical Association, where Borne was the head, and Harris was a lobbyist.
Despite being diagnosed with ALS, Harris continued to work until recently, even after his health deteriorated and he lost his voice. As recently as a week ago, he sent out a note to his clients, a testament to his dedication and passion for his work. His business partner, Renwick DeVille, said that the work was "his life and passion" and that "for him, it was family first, and we were all family."
Harris is survived by his wife, Linda, and two children. Funeral arrangements are currently pending.