Curtis W. Harris

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Curtis W. Harris
Curtis W. Harris, Sr..jpg
Curtis W. Harris, Sr.
Ordination 1959
Personal details
Born (1924-07-01) July 1, 1924 (age 92)
Dendron, Virginia
Nationality American
Denomination Baptist
Occupation Minister, civil rights activist, politician

Curtis West Harris, Sr. (born July 1, 1924 in Dendron, Virginia) is an American minister, civil rights activist, and politician in Virginia.

Civil rights work[edit]

Harris' civil rights work began in 1950 with his stint as President of the Hopewell chapter of the NAACP.[1] In 1960, he was arrested and sentenced to 60 days in jail for his role in a sit-in at segregated Georges' Drugstore in Hopewell, Virginia. Later in that year, he protested the segregation of the Hopewell swimming pool, which eventually led to the pool's closure. In 1966, Harris led a peaceful demonstration to prevent the building of a landfill in Hopewell's African American community; and was confronted by the Ku Klux Klan on the steps of city hall.[2]

In 1960, Harris helped to organize the Hopewell Improvement Association, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was elected Vice President.[3] He was named to the Board of Directors of the National SCLC in 1961 while Martin Luther King, Jr. was president. Also in 1961, Harris was cited for contempt by the Boatwright Committee of the Virginia General Assembly for not revealing the names of individuals associated with SCLC and not responding to the questions asked by the committee. On March 29, 1962, Martin Luther King along with more than 100 Virginia ministers and laymen accompanied Harris to his contempt trial (Boatwright Committee) in Hopewell. [3] Harris worked with King on multiple civil rights initiatives, including the March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery marches and considers King as one of his mentors in the Civil Rights Movement.[1] He served as president of the Virginia State Unit of SCLC from 1963–1998, and was elected the National SCLC Vice President in 2005.[3]

In 1987, he led a march against discrimination in Colonial Heights, Virginia. In 1996, he filed a discrimination complaint against a Fort Lee, Virginia military unit. In 2007, Harris marched against a proposed ethanol plant being built in Hopewell with support from the national SCLC.[4]

Other professional work[edit]

Curtis Harris was working at Allied Chemical when he was ordained a Baptist minister in 1959, and with First Baptist Bermuda Hundred in Chester, VA being his first pastorship. In 1961, he was called to pastor at both Union Baptist Church in Hopewell, VA and Gilfield Baptist Church in Ivor, VA. Harris retired from Gilfield in 1994, and on December 16, 2007, he retired as pastor of the Union Baptist after forty-six years.

In 1983, Harris' repeated efforts, in combination with many other voices, moved the city of Hopewell to replace its longstanding at-large system with a ward system to elect city council members. Harris made repeated attempts until he was finally elected to the Hopewell City Council (Ward 2) in 1986; in 1994 he was elected vice mayor; and in 1998, Harris was sworn in as the first African-American mayor of Hopewell. After 26 years of service to the city as well as to his constituents in Ward 2, Curtis Harris retired from his seat on the Hopewell City Council on March 1, 2012. [5]

On February 11, 2014, the Hopewell City Council voted to rename Terminal Street, Rev. C. W. Harris Street. For 57 years, Curtis and Ruth Harris lived at 209 Terminal Street, a street in Hopewell which now bears his name. The council also voted to rename Booker Street (which intersects Terminal), Ruth Harris Way in honor of Curtis’ late wife, Ruth. The Street Sign Ceremony hosted by the Hopewell City Council was held at Union Baptist Church on June 15, 2014 to pay tribute to Rev. Dr. Curtis W. Harris and his late wife, Dr. Ruth J. Harris. Herbert Bragg, Hopewell’s Director of Intergovernmental and Public Affairs was master of ceremony, music was rendered by the Harris Connection Singers and statements were made by Dr. Anthony Nutt, Mayor Michael Bujakowski, Vice Mayor Jasmine Guy, City Manager Michael Haley, Councilor Brenda Pelham, Councilor Jackie Shonak, State Senator Henry Marsh and Dr. Joanne Lucas, Rev. Harris’ daughter. Letters were read from Governor Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Senator Mark Warner and U.S. Senator Timothy Kaine.[6]


  1. ^ a b Setegn, Lea (2006-02-13). "Curtis W. Harris". The TimesDispatch. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  2. ^ "Community Honors Harris". The HopewellNews. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  3. ^ a b c "SCLC People to People Tour" (PDF). SCLC Newsletter. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  4. ^ "2001 Honorees - Curtis W. Harris". Dominion. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  5. ^ "Hopewell: Rev. Curtis Harris to retire from city council". WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, LA. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  6. ^ "Hopewell Political Rights Activist Get Street Named After Him". Retrieved 2014-06-16. 

External links[edit]

  • Curtis Harris 2003 oral history video from the Voices of Freedom Collection of the VCU Libraries
  • [1] Curtis W. Harris Website
  • [2] Curtis W. Harris
  • [3] 2001 Strong Black Men and Women
  • [4] Commending Reverend Dr. Curtis W. Harris (SJ525)
  • [5] Hopewell Political Rights Activist Get Street Named After Him
  • [6] The HistoryMakers
  • [7] Civil rights legend to attend SOTU
  • [8] Curtis W. Harris_Civil Rights Activist (YouTube)