After growing up in the Minnesota, Lane J. Harris attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he received a B.A. in History. Upon graduation, Harris was selected by the United Board for Higher Education in China to teach English at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, Jilin, China for a year. Returning to the United States, he attended Washington University in Saint Louis where he earned a Master's degree in East Asian Studies with a concentration in Republican (1911-1949) Chinese history. For his Ph.D., Harris attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research focused on late imperial and Republican Chinese postal history. After spending a year in Nanjing researching postal history at the Second Historical Archives of China, Harris returned to the United States and moved to Ellensburg, Washington where he taught World History. He joined the faculty at Furman University in 2009.