By Maria- Paula
Rev. Curtis West Harris was an African-American politician who served as a mayor, a minister of the gospel and a civil rights activist commitment to nonracial justice in Hopewell, Virginia where he lived with his family since 1928. He passed on at 93 in 2017.
Harris was a husband to Ruth Jones and a dedicated father of six children, Joanne, Karen, Curtis, Michael, Michelle and the late Kenneth.
Save for the many titles he held in his life, to the future generations, Harris will be an official household name at the post office on Poythress Street in Hopewell.
On Thursday, the post office was renamed the Reverend Curtis West Harris Post Office Building. With the US. Postal Service being a federal government agency, renaming of its facilities must be through passed legislation by Congress which in Harris’ case, was introduced by Rep. Donald McEachin (D), 4th District, in December 2019.The bill got support from the entire Virginia delegation and was signed into law in 2020.
“It was an honor to host the renaming and dedication service commemorating ground-breaking civil rights hero, Reverend Curtis West Harris. He was an inspiring local leader, community activist, and advocate. From leading the Virginia Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to serving as a top lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Harris was a tireless champion in the fight for equal rights. He never forgot his home in Hopewell and served as a local elected leader, Hopewell’s first Black mayor, and as a pastor of Union Baptist Church for nearly fifty years. I was proud to introduce legislation to honor his life and legacy and hope residents of Hopewell are reminded of his contributions whenever they visit the post office,” said Rep. McEachin
Friends and colleagues of the late Harris, who joined in the dedication ceremony from across the street, broke into song, as they remembered his different roles in their society.
In Hopewell and Virginia, Harris was known to have marched alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma to fight racial justice. In 1966, he fought against a proposal to build a landfill near a predominantly people of color neighborhood by marching to Hopewell City Hall and presented his demands against 22 members of the Ku Klux Klan. Harris also sued the city to abandon and implement a ward-based elections system after which he was elected to the City Council in 1986 and later as mayor in 1998. In 2012 he retired from the council.
“The Harris family was overjoyed with the renaming event. We applaud Congressman McEachin and the Post Office staff for all of their hard work. Our father, Rev. Curtis W. Harris, was a man dedicated to his home of Hopewell, to the Commonwealth, and to the nation,” said Michael Harris, Rev. Curtis Harris’s youngest son.
After the event, a reception was held where family, friends, and colleagues were received. A voter registration and COVID-19 testing in cooperation with the city, FEMA, and the Union Baptist Church, where Dr. Harris ministered for 46 years was conducted with incredible community involvement thanks to the dedication service.
By Maria- Paula