Bob L. Harris, a member of the famed Ray Charles Singers choral group and the father of four-time Oscar-nominated actor Ed Harris, died Friday at his home in Evanston, Ill., after an extended illness. He was 91.
In 1985, while working in the bookstore at the Art Institute of Chicago, Bob Harris sent Jeffrey Potter’s To a Violent Grave, a biography of Jackson Pollock, to his son and suggested he make a film about the painter. “Maybe there’s a picture in it,” he said in a note. More than a decade later, Ed directed and received an Oscar nom for portraying the artist in the acclaimed Pollock (2000). His father played a veterinarian in the movie.
Earlier, Bob Harris sang with the Ray Charles Singers on The Perry Como Show and appeared on The Garry Moore Show, where he also performed in skits with Carol Burnett, Dom DeLuise and others in the cast.
Harris also was on The Fred Waring Show and The Martha Raye Show and, with Burnett, appeared in the telefilm Calamity Jane and on the short-lived CBS variety show The Entertainers.
He had small roles alongside his son in the 1996 telefilm Riders of the Purple Sage and in Appaloosa (2008), which Ed also co-wrote.
Bob Harris was born Oct. 11, 1922, in Walters, Okla., where his father owned a barber shop. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II with the 384th Field Artillery Division of the 103rd Infantry Division.
He graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Engineering in 1947 and earned a degree from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago two years later.
He later served as manager of the Oklahoma City Symphony, the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Symphony and the Orchestra of Illinois.
In addition to Ed and his wife, actress Amy Madigan, survivors include his wife of 66 years, Margaret; their other sons Paul and Robert; granddaughters Rebecca and Lily; another daughter-in-law Susan; and sister-in-law Mary.