Gene Harris’s obituary, December 27, 1964.
Following my mother’s death, I discovered a surprising obituary in her filing cabinet. Dated December 27, 1964, it revealed that my grandmother had a brother, Gene Harris. He was a complete mystery to me. Why had I never heard of him?
Quickly, it became clear that my grandmother Minnie (Harris) Sanger and Gene Harris were half-siblings, sharing the same father, my great-grandfather, Clay Harris.
Gene’s obituary ran on page three of the Chicago Tribune, indicating he was a prominent Chicago resident. Written by Will Leonard, author of the newspaper’s weekly entertainment column, “On The Town,” the article stated that, at the time of his death, Gene Harris owned the oldest single-proprietor nightclub in the city—Club Alabam. A local hero in Chicago, was Uncle Gene a “black sheep” in the Harris family?
Since 1995, I have explored the lives of my vast Harris family. Ultimately, the intriguing and sometimes shocking details of Gene Harris’ life resulted in The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam.
In upcoming posts, I will expand on the research behind The Blackest Sheep and share tidbits about Chicago history, especially the growth of cabarets and nightclubs before, during, and after Prohibition.
Please join me on a fun and danger-filled trip through Chicago after dark. You’ll meet gangsters, G-men, showgirls, and a wide variety of musicians and performers—including the scandalous beauty Evelyn Nesbit!
If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on Facebook at The Blackest Sheep.
The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.