by Sharon Muir with Kitty Muir and Barbara Scott
Harry had a warm personality, ready wit and a great love for Meher Baba. He is greatly missed by all who knew him.
Son of a military father, J Harry Muir was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, at Fort Sill.
I met Harry at an after-show party at The Lost Colony in Manteo, NC. I was the master electrician. He had been in the chorus some years before. He wanted coffee. I was perched on the stove. Something romantic like “move your ass or get it cooked” was said. Our story goes on for 50+ years after.
Harry joined the Army after being offered time in jail or time in Army for civil rights protests. He served one full term and re-enlisted. At this time America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was heating up. In Harry’s work, he began to hear about guys just back from Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and other places where there were not supposed to be any US presence. More and more he realized that the American people were being told lies, and came to believe that this was not an honorable war. He began working with others inside the military who were also concerned about this situation. He helped connect people with those working on the outside for routes to Canada and other options. He applied for Conscientious Objector status against this war. He was not opposed to all war, just this dirty one. His application was refused.
He finally asked for a meeting with his Commanding Officer. They discussed options — refusal of a direct order seemed to be the best. Harry removed his shirt, the CO ordered him to put it back on. He refused. And thus began another long-drawn-out time with nothing happening, so he called a press conference outside the gates of Fort Benning. Dan Rather from CBS and others showed up. Harry had received warning of the military coming to stop the press conference, so he met with Mr. Rather in the woods nearby for an interview, then went to the gates to turn himself in. Front-page stories in the London Times, New York Times and all major news organizations followed. Harry was court-martialled and sentenced to five years hard labor in Fort Leavenworth Military Prison. On the website “Viet Nam Full Disclosure” ― among other references ― Harry’s sentence is recorded as an occurrence on Feb. 22, 1967: “Spec 4 J. Harry Muir 3d, a conscientious objector who said he could not serve in Vietnam because he loved peace more than America, was sentenced to two years at hard labor today for the kind of conduct that ‘loses wars and countries.’”
Harry and I had been keeping in touch, so I was fully aware of these events and his imprisonment.
Harry had always been a religious person. As an Episcopalian, he had spent time in a monastery and often meditated. During his time in prison, he always visualized someone sitting beside him.
I found out about Meher Baba in May 1967. I was so excited that I wrote to Harry about God being in human form NOW! I only had one photo of Baba and I seriously could not part with it. I called the Meher Spiritual Center and Jane Haynes sent Harry a Universal Message. Because of Harry’s notoriety, he was only allowed to get mail from five people. But somehow the Universal Message went through to him. He opened it and saw the man who had been sitting with him in his cell during his meditations.
His sentence was reviewed and reduced to one year. We were married ten days after his release. The wedding took place in Myrtle Beach, where the Baba family did everything for us. Elizabeth arranged the church. Kitty set up the reception. Phyllis Ott made my wedding dress. Lyn Ott gave me away in marriage. Both our families disapproved of “cheap carny trash” marrying “a convict,” so the Baba folks became our real family. John Gunn was Harry’s best man, Barbara Gunn (now Barbara Scott) was my matron of honor. The wonderful folks who made it all happen in a few short days make up a star-spangled list of Chapel Hill, Myrtle Beach and New York Baba lovers.
I had a wreck on the way to get Harry out of prison and was on a cane when the going-blind Lyn Ott gave me away…the blind leading the lame.
Harry went back to the University of North Carolina, where he got a BA in playwriting and an MA in directing. Our daughter Katherine Elizabeth “Kitty” Muir was born in Chapel Hill in 1968.
The 1969 call for Meher Baba’s Darshan saw us going for the first time to India.
Harry was an Associate Professor along with me at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, for three years.
We moved to Minnesota after meeting many musicians from there who stayed with us when booked into the campus coffeehouse.
Fifteen years in Minnesota, focused on playing music for a living. As members of IWW (International Workers of the World), we worked as a home-based duo out of Minneapolis and were also active in the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Society of American Magicians, and the Minnesota Baba Group. Harry began writing Baba and other songs. After his father died, his mother became fragile and we moved back to North Carolina to help. He continued song writing. We lived close to the Myrtle Beach Center.
We went to India after 29 years to visit our daughter, Kitty, who had moved there at Mani’s (Baba’s sister’s) invitation. We realized there was work desperately needed in the theatre and art area, which we were uniquely qualified to take on. While we built a house, we came six months each year until we moved full time in 2002. Harry continued to write Baba songs and was in charge of the technical side of the theatre until he died. In later years he studied Therapeutic Thai Massage with a known master and healer; he did volunteer work in temples in Thailand and also at Meherabad, in addition to his theatre duties.
During his final months, two angels were sent to me with the message “Don’t worry.” Harry passed away in Pune, India, in 2016.
Hopefully his Baba songs will be collected and put into a book.