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Rep. John Lewis on the Death of Mrs. Vera Harris

September 12, 2019
Press Release

I was so sorry to hear about the passing of Mrs. Vera Harris, the wife of Tuskegee Airman and pharmacist Richard Harris, who opened her Montgomery, Alabama home to road weary, hungry, convalescing activists during the struggle for civil rights and social justice in America.  During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Harris pharmacy became a makeshift taxi depot for people looking for transportation to get to work, and Mrs. Harris herself shuttled many boycotters around town in her car.

Her hospitality, at a time of crisis in Montgomery, was an act of courage, when sympathizers put their lives in danger, and it was a kind of divine providence that extended a hand to activists at the very moment they needed it.  When I was beaten at the Montgomery bus station during the Freedom Rides, the Harrises opened their home to as many Freedom Riders as their home could hold.   We slept on couches, in chairs and on the floor, in any nook or cranny we could find.  Mrs. Harris made big pots of delicious spaghetti that helped to renew and strengthen us.  Her warm and welcoming spirit and the food she fed us encouraged us to stay in the struggle for simple justice in America. Her home was like a safe haven to activists who had to face a hostile world. 

Vera Harris must be looked upon as one of the mothers of the movement, whose bravery, tenacity, generosity and commitment to an ideal gave power and energy to activists on the front lines of change in the 20th century.  Her warm and giving spirit and her deep dedication to the cause of justice will be deeply missed.