In Memory of J. Ira Harris: The Civic Association mourns the loss of an all-star community champion

Our Directors  |  February 21, 2022

The above video is from when J. Ira & Nicki Harris were awarded the William “Bill” Brooks Community Service Award in 2020.

J. Ira Harris

Remembering J. Ira Harris
Civic Association Director

The Palm Beach Civic Association is saddened by the passing of our longtime director and friend J. Ira Harris.

Mr. Harris was a business executive and a philanthropist who joined the Civic Association along with his wife, Nicki, more than 30 years ago.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris were the recipients of the 2020 William J. “Bill” Brooks Community Service Award for outstanding service to the community.

The Harrises were the Civic Association’s Man and Woman of the Year for 2021.

Bob Wright, chairman and chief executive officer of the Civic Association, expressed his deepest sympathies to the Harris family for their loss.

“His charitable activities in the community have been outstanding,” Mr. Wright said of Mr. Harris. “He has supported many, many groups over the years. He was just an extremely active person in community affairs. Susan [Wright] and I were both extremely sad to learn about this.”

Mr. Harris was a life member of the board of directors for the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and a member of the executive committee of the Town of Palm Beach United Way.

The Harrises also gave generously to the Norton Museum of Art and to the Par 3 Golf Course and the Morton and Barbara Mandel Recreation Center.

Mr. Harris was highly regarded throughout the town, and he touched many people with his passing, just as he did with his life.

“I feel like a light has gone out in Palm Beach,” Civic Association Vice Chairwoman Michele Kessler said. “Ira loved his family, his friends and this town. He supported his friends in every way possible. He was smart and funny, and Howard and I will miss him so much.”

Robert Nederlander, a member of the Civic Association’s Executive Committee, said Mr. Harris was a true friend.

“He was a man for all seasons – bright, intelligent, and understanding of people, besides being a good friend,” Nederlander said. “I will miss him and will be with him in the future. God bless you, Ira.”

Civic Association President Mary Robosson said Mr. and Mrs. Harris have been a great philanthropic force for Palm Beach and the larger community “while treating our town with the highest regard and with respect for all of its citizens. [Mr. Harris] had community in his heart, with such great passion to give back.”

Mr. Harris was chairman of J.I. Harris & Associates, a firm he created in 1999. Previously, he oversaw the Midwest operation of Blair & Company before joining Salomon Brothers in 1969 as a general partner.

He was a member of the Executive Committee of Salomon Brothers and a director of Phibro-Salomon.

In 1988, he joined Lazard Freres & Company as a senior partner and member of its management committee. Mr. Harris became vice chairman of the Pritzker Organization in 1999.

He was a 1959 graduate of the University of Michigan, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and an honorary doctorate in 2012. He remained a devoted supporter of his alma mater throughout his life.

Upon receiving the William J. “Bill” Brooks Community Service Award in 2020, Mr. Harris said Palm Beach is a very special place to call home.

“This is a community where people care and people want to give back to it,” Mr. Harris said. “That is one thing that makes this community so unique, and we’ve been glad to be part of it.”

J. Ira Harris, Ken Langone, Bob Wright, & Robert Nederlander

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