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Hansen, T/4 Robert W. | Harris, Lt. Clyde K. | Hartt, Lt. Frederick

Harris, Lt. Clyde K.  

Clyde Kenneth Harris was born in the small town of Maud, Oklahoma on April 18, 1918. His father, Bert Harris, was vice president of the First National Bank in Maud and later in Konowa, Oklahoma.

Harris earned his BFA at the University of Oklahoma in l939 with a degree in Interior Decoration. While there, he was President of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity his senior year and a member of Phi Eta Sigma, secretary of Delta Phi Delta and El Modjii president. He always had artistic talent and was a fine painter. He received a scholarship to study design in Paris, but because of the war could not go and instead attended Parson’s School of Design in New York City, NY.

In 1943 Harris enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a Captain in the Corps of Engineers, serving with the 1229th Engineer’s Fire Fighting Platoon. He was assigned to the MFAA in Germany in August of 1945 and was posted to the Hesse region near Frankfurt. As a Monuments Man, he helped the family of Prince Ludwig von Hesse-Darmstadt recover their lost objects of art.

In December 1946, he retrieved and returned the famous painting of Madonna by Hans Holbein the Younger to the Prince and Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt at their castle, Schloss Wolfsgarten. The painting had been sent from Darmstadt to Silesia during the war for safe storage. It was found in the Coburg Castle dungeon, where it had been spared by both Polish looters and the American bombardment of the castle.

Moritz Landgraf of Hesse, nephew of Prince Ludwig von Hesse-Darmstadt recounts that “on a cold, snowy night of December 28, l945 he accompanied Lt. Clyde Harris to retrieve the Holbein Madonna from Coburg Castle. With Harris leading the way in a jeep, he followed in the back of an American Army truck. In February of 1945, to keep it from the advancing Red Army, the painting had been transferred to Coburg via Dresden on the very day the city was bombed. The painting was spared the flames which engulfed Dresden only because its transport truck was parked in an open public park in nearby Herrenhut. After Harris and Prince Moritz loaded the painting onto the Army truck, the truck caught on fire. Lacking tools, it was impossible to release the painting whose crate was lashed and nailed to the truck bed, and the fire extinguishers of passing jeeps failed. They finally suffocated the flames with sand and earth, and were able to bring the family treasure to Schloss Wolfsgarten intact.” [1]

It was while assisting the Hesse family that Harris met Princess Cecilie of Prussia, whom he married on June 21, 1949 at the Castle Burg Hohenzollern in Hechingen in the Black Forest Region. Theirs was a true “fairy-tale” romance, which received international attention. Princess Cecilie Viktoria Anastasia Zeta Thyra Adelheid of Prussia was the daughter of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

They settled in Amarillo, Texas where Harris had established an Interior Decorating business. He designed and decorated many beautiful homes in the West Texas town, inspired by European Architecture and furnished with items shipped to Texas from Europe. Previously he worked for Warren Ramsey Interior Decoration in Oklahoma City and represented Mr. Ramsey in Amarillo from 1941-1943.

Harris died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of only thirty-nine on March 2, l958 in Amarillo. Cecilie died in May l975 in Taunus, Germany, while visiting relatives. They had one daughter, Kira Alexandrine, born October 20, 1954.

[1] Hesse: A Princely German Collection (Catalogue of an Exhibition Published by Portland Art Museum)


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