Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: James Julian “Jim” Harris (1923-2011)

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James Julian “Jim” Harris
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Born in St. Vital in 1923, son of Fred Alexander Harris (?-1974) and Hortense Damhout (1899-1924), he grew up in downtown Winnipeg, attending Gordon Bell High School to grade 10 before apprenticing as a carman with the Canadian National Railway. In 1942, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as an airframe mechanic and lead aircraftsman in Quebec and Prince Edward Island. After the war, he completed high school then enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He graduated in 1951 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

In 1952, he moved to Montreal, Quebec to work as a professional engineer for the Canadian National Railway where he was responsible for the development of the aluminum hopper-bottomed rail car. In 1967, he chaired and was a member of a Canadian Wheat Board committee that led to the adoption of the block shipping system in 1970. He progressed in railway management to the position of General Superintendent of Equipment (Great Lakes Region) based at Toronto, Ontario from 1967 to 1971. He then returned to Winnipeg and was seconded twice to the grain industry through the Canadian Grain Commission and Canada Grains Council. He first reorganized the Canadian Grain Commission's Weighing Division then headed the conversion of the grain industry to the metric system. Between these two assignments, he was part of a three-person office located in Winnipeg that was CN’s precursor to its grain marketing unit. He retired in 1978.

In August 1952, he married Gerdur “Garry” Narfason and they had two children. During his retirement, he was a member of the boards of the CN Pensioners Association and Manitoba Association of Seniors.

He died at Winnipeg on 17 December 2011.


Death registration [Hortense Harris], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Boy scouts join in search for Mrs. Fred Harris,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 September 1924, page 1.

Obituary [Alexander Fred Harris], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 November 1974, page 23.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 24 December 2011.

This page was prepared by Dawn Harris and Gordon Goldsborough.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 3 December 2020

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