John Harris was a teacher and an opponent of apartheid. In 1960 he became active in the Liberal Party and was soon elected to the National Committee. Shortly thereafter he became Chairman of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC). SANROC was committed to securing South Africa’s exclusion from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics because of its racially discriminatory sports policies. As Chairman of SANROC, Harris traveled to Switzerland in February 1963 to argue at the International Olympic Committee for exclusion. On his return to South Africa, his passport was confiscated. In February 1964 he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. Unable to engage in normal political activity, he joined the African Resistance Movement (ARM), mostly members of the Liberal Party whose frustration with the lack of success of traditional politics had driven them to acts of sabotage against economic infrastructure.
Harris was arrested that night. He admitted that he had planted the bomb but denied intending to kill. He was detained in solitary confinement under the 90 - Day Detention law until he signed a confession. He was then charged with murder, convicted, and sentenced to death. After eight months of solitary confinement, he was hanged on April 1, 1965. He was 27 years old. Harris was the only white person to be hanged in Apartheid South Africa for political activities.