Hopewell honors icons
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jun 17, 2014, 13:38
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Members of the Harris family pull back the covers unveiling the new street names in Hopewell. Re-enactors demonstrate a cannon to visitors at the battlefield. The re-enactors were portraying members of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery.
HOPEWELL — The Rev. Dr. Curtis W. Harris and his late wife, Dr. Ruth Harris, will forever be part of the city of Hopewell not only in memory but in name as well. On Sunday afternoon, the street names were officially dedicated, and Terminal Street and Booker Street became Rev C W Harris Street and Ruth Harris Way.
At Union Baptist Church, which was led by Harris as pastor for 46 years, a crowd of family and friends gathered to honor Harris and his late wife with many words of praise and thanks.
Councilor Roosevelt Edwards led the efforts to have the streets renamed in honor of the Harrises and said that his time on council has been because of the efforts of the husband and wife.
“Rev. Harris, we wanted to do something while you were on this side of heaven,” Edwards said. “It’s an honor and I’m glad you let me honor you. You’re not my friend, you’re a lot more than that. You’re my mentor.”
Sitting at the front of the church, Harris humbly hung his head during the speeches, also letting a smile breakthrough every so often, all the while having his family sitting behind him, taking up many of the pews in the church.
“We are so proud of the honor that you are bestowing upon our father and our late mother,” said Dr. Joanne Harris Lucas, one of the Harris’ daughters, at the ceremony. “And we will never forget, not ever. And this little piece of their world, their home base ... you have said ‘Job well done’ and we thank you.”
Lucas, of Virginia Beach, introduced the family in attendance as well as those who sent their regards in response to their absences. In total, Harris’ immediate family, who lovingly refer to themselves as the Harris Connection, stands at 59 members.
Though not being able to attend, many dignitaries sent in words of thanks, honoring the Harris family; letters were read from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Congressman Randy Forbes, Senator Mark Warner, and Councilor Wayne Walton.
Senator Henry Marsh stood and shared his praise for the Harrises, noting that ‘when you got one you got the other,’ as Ruth was a part of Curtis.
“Curtis Harris will be honored many, many times,” Marsh said. “Curtis belongs to the world. He changed Virginia and he changed the nation.”
Turning to Harris in the front row, Marsh told him that “you are a real hero.” Marsh also confessed that when Curtis Harris was named as mayor of Hopewell in 1998, he let the tears flow from his eyes, saying it was one of the most important moments in his life.
Councilor Jackie Shornak said her words of thanks in the form of a poem she had written titled “Paving the Way.”
“It seems only right that these streets intersect/one represents honor and the other respect,” a line read.
The Rev. Curtis Harris smiles as he watches his family unveil the street names.
Proclamations were read by Vice Mayor Jasmine Gore and Councilor Brenda Pelham, officially renaming the streets and listing the many achievements that the husband and wife made not only to Hopewell but to Virginia and the civil rights movement.
“I want to thank his children for their support they gave to their parents,” Pelham said.
For Gore, the praise was given to Harris as she turned to him and thanked him for his efforts throughout the years, noting that had it not been for his fight and his marches with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. she would have not been afforded the chance to attend college.
Mayor Mike Bujakowski said the efforts of Curtis and Ruth Harris improved the lives of many in Hopewell and beyond.
“It’s going to make official I think what we in Hopewell have known for many, many years,” Bujakowski said of the street name change. “That the Drs. Harris have owned these streets and many streets in Hopewell for much longer than today.”
Many in attendance stood to share their memories of the Harris family and give their thanks for their ongoing fight for equality, noting that both Curtis and Ruth changed the lives of many and their efforts for all those years will never be forgotten.
The Rev. Curtis Harris also received a certificate from the National Movement for Civil and Human Rights Inc. at the ceremony.
Under the bright sun on Sunday afternoon, members of the Harris family stood and pulled away the covers, unveiling the new street names in the city, which will forever bear the names of the husband and wife who served beside each other, loved each other, and will forever be united on a corner in the city of Hopewell.