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2001 Honorees - Curtis W. Harris

Curtis W. Harris     In 1960, he was arrested and sentenced to 60 days in jail for sitting in at a segregated drugstore in Hopewell, Virginia. 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.

     Rev. Curtis Harris has been heralded as a religious, social, civic and political leader for more than 40 years. As Hopewell, Virginia’s first African-American mayor, as past president of the Virginia State Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and as pastor of Union Baptist Church in Hopewell, Rev. Harris has spent a lifetime working for the rights of others.

"Everyone has something that Christ can use to supply others’ needs."

     Rev. Harris was born in Surry County, Virginia and was raised in the inner city of Hopewell and educated in its public schools. He graduated from Carter G. Woodson High School and continued his education at Virginia Union University.

     From his sit-ins to his marches with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Harris’ early leadership was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement. He has dedicated his life to activism and has waged tireless campaigns as a past president of the Hopewell chapter of the NAACP and the Virginia State Unit of the SCLC. Currently, he is a member of the SCLC National Board of Directors and the U.S. Committee on Civil Rights.

     Countless organizations have honored the man who has risked his life to champion the rights of African Americans. Rev. Harris has earned the Support of Children Award from the City of Hopewell School Board, the Unmatched Determination Award from the national board of the SCLC, the Lifetime Service to Fellowmen Award from the Surry County Citizens Forum and the Real Dream Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute.

     Because of the struggle for survival that young people are confronted with today, Rev. Harris shares these words to guide them: "As the little lad freely gave of his lunch, two fishes and five barley loaves, which was magnified by Christ and became the supper for thousands, so does every young person have something that Christ can use to supply the needs of others."