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Harris, Sir David


HARRIS, SIR DAVID (1852–1942), South African mining magnate, soldier, and politician. A cousin of Barney *Barnato, Harris went to South Africa from London in 1871, and made on foot the 600-mile journey from Durban to the diamond mines at Kimberley, where he worked for a time as a digger. His marriage to Rosa Gabriel in 1873 was the first Jewish wedding to take place in Kimberley. He became associated with Cecil Rhodes, and from 1897 to 1931 was a director of De Beers Consolidated Mines, founded by Rhodes and Barnato. On Barnato's death in 1897, Harris was elected to his seat in Parliament, where for 32 years he was esteemed as an authority on the diamond industry. Harris fought in several frontier wars in the Cape Colony, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In the Boer War (1899–1902) he commanded the town guard of Kimberley during the historic 125-day siege. He was mentioned in dispatches and decorated for his services. Later he was knighted. Harris was one of the founders of the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation and was its president for many years. His benefactions to the community included the site on which the Kimberley synagogue was built in 1875. In Parliament he frequently spoke on immigration and other matters of Jewish concern. Known as the "grand old man" of Kimberley, Harris told the story of his life in Pioneer, Soldier and Politician (1931). His Anglo-Boer War career is described in "Sir David Harris – Hero of the Siege of Kimberley," in: Jewish Affairs, vol. 54, no. 3 (1999).

[Louis Hotz]

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