William & Mary | Earl Gregg Swem Library Special Collections Database


Curtis West Harris and Ruth Jones Harris Papers, 1950-2012


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Collection Overview

Curtis West Harris and Ruth Jones Harris Papers, 1950-2012
Mss. Acc. 2014.006
11.0 Cubic Feet
Primary Creator
Harris, Curtis West

The collection is divided into six (6) series. Due to keeping as close to original order as possible, materials in each folder vary in form and may have a wide range of years. Folders in each series are arranged chronologically by the first date stated and then alphabetically if pertaining the same start date. Items in the folders have been left in the original arrangement, which means items may or may not be in chronological order.

Series 1 contains biographic materials. Series 2 contains documents relating church and ministry materials. It is composed of three (3) sub-series: Bethany Baptist, Ministry, and Union Baptist. Series 3 is for material relating to the town of Hopewell and contains two (2) sub-series for City Council and Hopewell Community. Series 4 contains digital photographs but also a collection from photo albums. It is important to note that his series contains newspaper articles that Reverend Harris placed in his photo album collection. Series 5 is titled SCLC/Civil Rights and is divided into the sub-series Civil Right and SCLC. Series 6 includes artifacts, which are housed with the Manuscripts Artifact Collection.

Date Acquired
Forms of Material
Letters (correspondence), Minutes, Publications


Collection is open to all researchers.
Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection contains biographical information relating to Reverend Curtis W. Harris, Ruth Jones Harris, Hopewell community members and calendars for the Harris family. Included in the collection are documents relating to Reverend Harris’ time spent serving on Hopewell’s City Council, materials from the churches Rev. Harris served, as well as his involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In addition to this material are photo albums, pertaining to church related programs/activities and events at the Union Day Care Center, and artifacts.

Collection Historical Note

Reverend Curtis W. Harris was born in Dendron, Virginia on July 1, 1924 to Mr. Sandy Harris and Mrs. Thelma Harris. He attended Hopewell public schools, Virginia Union University, and received his pastoral training through the Medical College of Virginia. Harris’ list of positions held include but are not limited to: serving as pastor at Union Baptist and Little Gilford Baptist churches, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and mayor of Hopewell, Virginia. Harris has also been the recipient to numerous awards and proclamations for his involvement with the Civil Rights movement and the overall advancement of the Hopewell community.

By Rev. Harris’ side for over fifty years was Ruth Jones, whom he wedded in 1946. Ruth founded Hopewell’s Union Day Care Center in the early 1970’s as well as a program for senior citizens. She served on Hopewell’s Senior Citizen Commission in the early to mid-1980 and as an avid supporter of racial equality she cared for the home, six children and business while Rev. Harris was on the front lines for the cause.

Additional information pertaining to the biography of Curtis and Ruth Harris can be found at http://www.curtiswharris.com/.

Subject/Index Terms

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Biography, 1971-2012 and undated],
[Series 2: Church and Ministry, 1957-2010 and undated],
[Series 3: Hopewell, 1959-2009 and undated],
[Series 4: Photographs, 1950-2008],
[Series 5: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Civil Rights, 1962-2009],
[Series 6: Artifacts],

Series 6: Artifacts
All artifacts received as part of the Curtis West Harris and Ruth Jones Harris Papers are housed in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection.
Item 2014.006.1: 32nd Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference Button, August 15-18, 1989
1-circular button that has a white top and a burgundy bottom on the front. On the white top "SCLC" is printed in burgundy and "SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE" is printed in burgundy under "SCLC." On the burgundy bottom "32ND ANNUAL CONVENTION/AUGUST 15-18, 1989/ ATLANTA, GEORGIA/DR. JOSEPH E. LOWERY/ PRESIDENT" is printed in white. The back of the button is silver and has a needle and hook so that the wearer can attach the button to his or her shirt. The button measures approximately 2.125in. and is in good condition. There is tarnish on the back of the button around the edges and in the center under the needle and hook. Located in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection. Mss 2014.006.01
Item 2014.006.2: The International Association of Ministers' Wives and Ministers' Widows, Inc. Name Badge, July 2-9, 2010
1- name badge that has a clear slip cover top, and a green and white ribbon bottom. The back of the slip cover top has a small silver needle and hook where the wearer can attach the badge to her shirt. The slip cover top has The International Association of Ministers' Wives and Ministers' Widows, Inc logo printed in black on the wearer's right. The association's name is printed in black above the logo and "DR. ELIZABETH COLES BOUEY, FOUNDER/ DR. JANIE CHARLES HOLMES, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT"  is printed in black below the logo. A green piece of paper is inserted inside the slip cover and has "Annual Convention/ Ruth J. Harris/Hopewell, VA/Atlanta, GA/ July 2-July 9, 2010" typed in black print on it. The Green ribbon at the bottom has "MEMBER" printed in gold on it and the white ribbon has "LIFE MEMBER" printed in gold on it. The badge measures approximately 5.5in. (length) x 4.5in. (width) and is in good condition. There are three small red stains under the "R" in "LIFE MEMBER" on the white ribbon. Located in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection. Mss 2014.006.02
Item 2014.006.3: "I Helped Hang Poverty" Noose, circa 1969
1-miniature white hangman's noose. Attached to the top of the noose is a brown tag. The brown tag reads "POOR PEOPLE'S PRODUCTS" in a circle and "I Helped Hang Poverty" below it. Inside the circular "POOR PEOPLE'S PRODUCT" is a square that has text within it that reads, "THIS IS TO CERTIFY THE PRODUCT YOU HAVE PURCHASED IS GENUINE." The "I Helped Hang Poverty" noose was propaganda used by the Poor People's Campaign to bring attention to the plight of poor Americans. The Poor People's Campaign was an movement organized by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1968 with the aim of demanding economic and human rights for economically disadvantaged Americans of all races. The noose measures approximately 16in (tag included) and is in fair condition. The noose itself has suffered from discoloration and the rope edges that tie the noose together are frayed. In addition, there are black stains on the first three spirals of the noose and the left side of the knot that holds the tag. The tag has creases in the middle  and is torn from the top right corner to the middle. there is white discoloration and a small brown stain above the "I" in "I Helped Hang Poverty" and there is a large brown stain under the word "Poverty." On the back of the tag there are large black spots along the top of the tag near the knot that holds the tag. There is also a small black stain on the bottom left corner of the tag. Located in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection, Textiles. Mss 2014.006.03
Item 2014.006.4: "What is a Pastor" Plaque, circa 1980s
1- square wooden plaque with a lighter brown shape carved in the middle. Within the lighter brown shape is a poem printed in black block type. The poem titled "WHAT IS A PASTOR?" reads: "A pastor is someone/ who is chosen by God/ As a shepherd of souls in his care,/He's someone who comforts/ an unhappy heart/ with a smile or a word or a prayer./ A pastor is someone/ whose strength and devotion/ Enriches the living of others,/He's someone who preaches/ the wonderful message/ That in Jesus all men are brothers./ A pastor is someone/ whose goal is to follow/ A worthy and lofty ideal--/ To guide other souls/ in the straight paths of truth,/ To sympathize, comfort and heal." The back of the plaque has a red felt covering and a piece of tape attached to it in the middle that has "Done by Ruth Harris" written in pen. There is a whole drilled at the top center of the plaque presumably for mounting purposes. The plaque measures approximately 5.5in. (length) x 5.5in. (width) and is in excellent condition. There is evidence of chipping on the bottom left and right corners. Located in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection, Wood. Mss 2014.006.04
Item 2014.006.5: Rev. Dr. Curtis W. Harris Day Proclamation Plaque, July 5, 1992
1-wooden plaque with a glass-encased document mounted upon it. The document is on parchment paper and has the City Seal of Hopewell, Virginia at the bottom left of the document. Brass tacks affix the document and the glass to the wooden plaque. On the back of the plaque, there is a rounded notch at the top and on left side where one can hang the plaque on a hook. On the bottom, right corner of the back of the plaque there is a golden sticker that reads "CUSTOM MADE BY/ The Award Company of AMERICA/ 3200 Rice Mine Road N.E. / P.O.  Box 2029/ Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35401/ Call Toll Free 1-800-633-5953/ or Call 205-349-2990." The plaque was presented to Rev. Dr. Curtis W. Harris when D. Paul Karnes, mayor of Hopewell in 1997, declared July 5 Reverend Doctor Curtis W. Harris Day in Hopewell, Virginia. The plaque measures approximately 13.875in. (length) x 11.5in. (width) and is in good condition. The edges of the document poking out from under the glass have suffered yellow discoloration. There is an approximately 4.25in. scratch on the glass above the City Seal of Hopewell on the document. A smaller scratch is located just above the scratch above the Seal. There is an approximately 0.5in. piece of extended glass near the middle of the document beside the third "WHEREAS." In addition, there is an approximately 0.375in. chip in the glass at the very top of the document. Finally, there are scratches all over the wooden back and some chipping of the wood on all four corners of the plaque. Located in the Manuscripts Artifact Collection, Wood. Mss 2014.006.05

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Biography, 1971-2012 and undated],
[Series 2: Church and Ministry, 1957-2010 and undated],
[Series 3: Hopewell, 1959-2009 and undated],
[Series 4: Photographs, 1950-2008],
[Series 5: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Civil Rights, 1962-2009],
[Series 6: Artifacts],

Administrative Information

Special Collections Research Center
Acquisition Source
Gift of Joanne Lucas, Daughter of Rev. Harris
Acquisition Method
Acc. 2014.006 was picked up from the donor by SCRC staff on 1/2/2014.
Preferred Citation
Curtis West Harris and Ruth Jones Harris Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
Processing Information
Accessioned and minimally processed by Steven Bookman, University Archives Specialist, in January 2014. Processing and finding aid completed by Derek Sower, SCRC intern, in July 2014.
Finding Aid Revision History
Box and Folder List compiled by Derek Sower, SCRC intern, in July 2014. Box and Folder List added to database by Stephanie Krauss, SCRC staff, on 10/2/2014.