Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) introduced bipartisan legislation to name a Hopewell post office in honor of the Reverend Curtis West Harris, a civil rights hero and the first black mayor of Hopewell.
The post office is located at 117 W. Poythress St.
“I am humbled to honor Reverend Harris, a crusader for equality and justice for all,” said McEachin. “Reverend Harris dedicated his life to championing social and economic equity, and his legacy should be celebrated. Designating this building will serve as a constant reminder of his immeasurable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, the Commonwealth, and our nation.”
“We are overjoyed that Congressman McEachin is introducing legislation to rename the Hopewell post office in honor of our family patriarch,” said the Harris family, fondly known as the Harris Connection. “The late Rev. Dr. Curtis West Harris, a war-torn veteran of Christian stewardship and social justice, was described as one who possessed an open heart touched by the needs of humanity. His tireless effort, humanitarian spirit, and unwavering determination are captured in the lyrics of his favorite Negro spiritual: “If I can help somebody as I pass along…then my living shall not be in vain.”
Rev. Harris began his lifelong fight for social justice after he successfully sued his employer for violating an executive order prohibiting discrimination at companies that received government contracts. In 1960, he was sentenced to sixty days in jail for staging a sit-in at a segregated drugstore in Hopewell; in all, he would be arrested more than a dozen times for acts of peaceful protest and civil disobedience.
Rev. Harris joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) national board; he would eventually head the SCLC’s Virginia chapter for more than thirty years, and at various times held leadership roles in the Hopewell chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), at the Virginia Council on Human Relations, and with numerous other organizations. Rev. Harris would become one of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s top lieutenants during the Civil Rights Movement, joining Dr. King’s 54-mile march in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery.
An influential and well-respected member of the Hopewell community, Rev. Harris served as the pastor of Hopewell’s Union Baptist Church for nearly fifty years and served on the Hopewell City Council from 1986 to 2012. In 1998, he became Hopewell’s first black mayor. During his career as a local elected official, he fought tirelessly for educational and environmental justice issues.
Every member of the Virginia congressional delegation are original cosponsors of the bill.
You can view text of the bill here.