Profiles from the Archives: Leland S. Harris

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Leland Stanford Harris was born on January 1, 1893, in Raleigh, N.C., to John Cebern Logan and Florence Carolina Upchurch Harris. John Harris was an attorney in Raleigh. From 1899 to 1918, the Harris family lived in a large house on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, that would later be replaced on the same site by the Sir Walter Hotel. The Harris family needed a large home, as there were nine living children and several extended family members living there by the early twentieth century. By the time of his draft registration for World War I, Leland Harris was working as an automobile salesman in the Raleigh. He would serve in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during the summer of 1917. Harris attended the famous ROTC training camps at Camp Warden McLean at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, that summer through August 1917.

Leland Harris was called into active U.S. Army service from ROTC on August 15, 1917, with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in a field artillery unit. He was sent for basic training to Camp Jackson, S.C., and assigned to Headquarters Company, 316th Field Artillery, 81st Division. Between the end of 1917 and August 1918, Harris would be stationed at the following stateside military camps or locations for Army training: Kenosha, Wisconsin; Camp Stuart, Virginia; and Camp Le, Virginia. He was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on March 4, 1918. A few days after his promotion, Leland’s father died on March 17, 1918, in Raleigh.

Leland Harris left the United States with his unit for overseas service in France during World War I on August 5, 1918. He would serve in Europe and remain on occupation duty with the 316th Field Artillery until June 9, 1919, when Harris arrived back in the United States. He was honorably discharged on June 16, 1919.


Leland Harris returned to Raleigh, and lived with his brother’s family. He married Hattie McKnight Bell on October 28, 1925, in Raleigh, N.C. With his background in automobile sales prior to WWI, by 1930 Harris worked as a manager with the North Carolina License and Theft Bureau (LTB), which was the oldest state law enforcement agency in North Carolina. Its initial purpose was to combat automobile theft in the early era of the use of cars, which was rising due to the increase in sales of the Model-T Ford. By 1934, Harris had become the Director of the LTB, renamed the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Bureau.

It is unknown what caused his shift in careers—though it is likely due to the effects of the Great Depression—that Leland Harris would become a traveling salesman by 1936 (it is believed this was in an automotive-related position). By the start of World War II, Harris was working for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1933, the AAMVA represented state and provincial officials in the United States and Canada who administered and enforced motor vehicle laws. AAMVA’s programs encouraged uniformity and reciprocity among the states and provinces. Harris appears to have traveled between Raleigh and Washington frequently for his job.

By 1948, Harris was working on auto statistics for R. L. Polk and Company, originally a city directory publishing company that launched its motor vehicle statistical operations in 1922, when the first car registration reports were published. The company’s early use of computer compilation of vehicle information in the early 1950s while Harris worked there, led to the development in the 1990s of the car reporting business Carfax, Inc. Leland S. Harris died on April 18, 1965, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, N.C.

To learn more about Leland Harris’ WWI service, check out the Leland S. Harris Papers (WWI 94) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.

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