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Harmon, James (1919-2007) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Harmon, James (1919-2007)

Historical Note:

James and Edith Harmon were married for 28 years.  James Harmon was born May 24, 1919 in Middletown, Ohio. As a young man he enrolled in the Navy and fought in World War II.  He later went on to fight in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  James achieved the difficult task of becoming an officer after entering service as an enlisted man.  After serving 20 years, he retired from the military, and pursued his PhD in Political Science.  He went on to become a professor at San Diego State University Imperial Valley Campus from 1964-1981.  James requested assignment to the remote campus because of his love for the desert habitat. While at SDSU he became the Chair of the Political Science Department.  Also at SDSU, James met Edith, or Edie as she is more commonly known.  She was born in 1945 and was 26 years his junior.  The couple spent almost every day of their marriage together, until his death on April 26, 2007.  Edie Harmon grew up in Massachusetts.  She graduated from Macalester College in 1966 as a geography major.  She fell in love with the desert when she went to Africa with the Peace Corps.  She would go on to spend time in Africa as a teacher in biology and art.  While there she also studied desert lands and animals.  When she met James, Edie decided to move to Imperial County.  While in Imperial County Edie went on to become a longtime volunteer for the Sierra Club and the Desert Protective Council.  She continues to be the liaison between the Bureau of Land Management and the Sierra Club. 

The Harmons began their environmental battles in the 1970s.  Their initial motive was local commercial companies which were siphoning excess groundwater from Imperial County residents.  At the time, Imperial County did not have any attorneys who focused on environmental law; as a result the Harmons educated themselves on the relevant legal issues.  By the time they joined the Sierra Club in 1990, they had already participated in multiple environmental lawsuits.  The Harmons became proficient at analyzing Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), gathering evidence against proposed projects, and initiating litigation. 

The Harmons spent much of their time trying to prevent the construction of landfills in the Southern California deserts, including the Mesquite Regional Landfill proposed in 1992, the Eagle Mountain Landfill also proposed in 1992, the Bolo Station Landfill in 1994, the Republic Imperial Landfill of 1994, and the Campo Solid Waste Management site in 1995. They prevented the construction of all of these landfills except for the Mesquite Regional Landfill, which was approved and built by Arid Operations, and the Campo Solid Waste Management project, which is still pending.

The Harmons also opposed mining operations including the White Pit mining project in 1995, Jimenez Pit project in 1996, the Castle Mountain Mine in 1997, and the Soledad Mountain Mining project, also in 1997.  The Harmons prevented construction of the White Pit Mine, while the Jimenez Pit project and Castle Mountain Mine expansion project were both approved and built.  The Soledad Mountain Mining project is still pending. 

James and Edie Harmon opposed projects which dealt with sewage waste, sludge waste, and agricultural damaging projects, including one in the Ocotillo-Coyote Wells Basin in 1989, and two in Imperial County in 1996 and 1998.  They also worked successfully to uphold a decision preventing construction of the North County Recycling and Energy Recovery Plant in 1987.


San Diego State University, College of Arts and Letters.

Kate Havelin, “Edith Bragg Harmon ’66: At home in the California desert.” Macalester Today.

Sierra Club San Diego Chapter, National Awards: Jim &Edie Harmon.

Note Author: Ricardo Baca (Intern)

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