Joseph R. Harris Sr., 85, founder and retired president and board chairman of the Joseph R. Harris Company, a chain of women's apparel stores, died Friday in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital after a heart attack. He had been stricken earlier that day while playing golf near his winter home in Longboat Key, Fla.
Mr. Harris started his first women's apparel shop at 1212 F St. NW in 1916. He once said that in those early days he had been the company's buyer, seller, bookkeeper, janitor and window trimmer. He was the company's president until the 1960s, then served as board chairman until retiring in 1971.
He saw the company expand to 27 stores in six states, including nine stores in the Washington area, before it merged with Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, Inc. in 1971.
Mr. Harris served as president of the Seven Corners Shopping Center Association in the mid-1950s and was a former member of the board of directors of Security National Bank. He had belonged to the Washington Kiwanis Club since 1929 and was a life member of the Kenwood Golf and Country Club.
Born in New York City, he came to Washington in 1900 and had lived in Bethesda since 1926. He was a 1912 graduate of Eastern High School and attended the University of Virginia. He was a page in the House of Representatives in 1908.
Following college, Mr. Harris was a reporter for the old Washington Herald and a partner in an ice and coal business before opening his first women's apparel shop.
Survivors include his wife, Jannette of the home; two daughters, Rosemary Pasek of Bethesda, and Betty H. Willson of Silver Spring; two sons, J. Robert Jr. of Key Largo, Fla., and Donald B. of Gaithersburg; 15 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.