McCree Harris


As rememberd by Joan C. Browning

My heart is broken. Lenora Taitt-Magubane and I wanted to find funds to come down and interview the women of Albany, starting of course with Ms. McCree Harris.

I will never forget that when I returned to Albany, January 1996, after all those years, she was so welcoming. She told me she'd been in the welcoming group when we arrived by train that long ago December Sunday. She kept patting me on the arm as if to be sure I was really at Carter's luncheon table, and she exclaimed, "I never thought I'd ever meet one of those Freedom Riders." Then when Bob and Casey and Lenora and I returned for the Museum opening, she just glowed to see four of the Freedom Riders return to her town.

McCree Harris was one of the true "leaders" of the movement. She helped make a dangerous space safer for others of us to "put our bodies on the line." When movement history moves beyond heroes and holidays and headline heroics, we will all better appreciate McCree Harris. I will miss her.

Joan C. Browning
Ronceverte WV
Copyright © 2000, Joan C. Browning

Albany Herald

SATURDAY, JULY 22, 2000 McCree Harris, 1934-2000

 —  By Ken Garner, Staff Writer

A veteran of the Albany civil rights movement, McCree Harris served the city she loved for more than 40 years as an educator, activist and political consultant.

McCree Harris, 66, died Friday morning at Palmyra Medical Centers. An activist in the civil rights movement, Harris was instrumental in the creation of Albany's museum at Old Mount Zion Church. Harris was also active in Democratic Party politics.

ALBANY - McCree L. Harris, an educator, civil rights activist, political consultant and lifelong resident of Albany, said in September that she'd "enjoyed every minute" of her long service to the city she loved.

Harris died Friday morning at Palmyra Medical Centers. She was 66.

"She was a very broad-minded, hard-working contributor. She didn't look for public acclaim. She wanted to have a positive effect on her community," former mayor Paul Keenan said of Harris. "I considered her a valuable personal friend and a valuable citizen."

The cause of death was not available Friday. Elliott Funeral Home of Albany is handling arrangements.

Harris suffered a stroke and kidney failure while volunteering during the 1994 flood. She was confined to a wheel chair the last six years of her life and underwent dialysis several times weekly.

Harris, who taught French, Latin and history for 36 years at Monroe High School, encouraged her students to participate in the Albany civil rights movement of the early 1960s. Later, she was active in the Democratic Party and was a consultant to former State Rep. John White, D-Albany, and other Democratic politicians, including Keenan and Mayor Tommy Coleman.

The number of community groups she was associated with is extensive, including the Water, Gas & Light Commission, the Community Relations Council, the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Georgia Commission on the Status of Women.

Harris, an active member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, also served on the board of directors of the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum at Old Mount Zion Church and chaired the city's Economic Development Council.

McCree Harris served on several community boards including the Water,Gas & Light Commission and the Economic Development Council.

Her father, the Rev. I.A. Harris, founded Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in 1932. Her sister, Rutha Harris, was one of the original Freedom Singers. Other survivors include sisters Juanita Gardner and Rosetta Armstrong and brother Emory Harris Sr.

Harris' close friend Rose Swan said Harris kept a low profile in the Albany movement because she was a teacher, but "everybody knew she was involved."

"She had to almost sneak in" to meetings of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Swan said. "She participated at risk of job and life and family."

Swan said Harris encouraged her students to protest civil rights abuses in Albany and helped with the movement's work in less prominent ways.

Civil rights leader Charles Sherrod, 63, of Albany, said Harris taught her students by example, "not just by words."

"McCree was a very energetic person, a real hard worker," said Sherrod, who came to Albany to help the committee register black voters. "On things she could do, like register voters, she's tops. If she said she was going to take Ward 1 and make sure everybody was canvassed or everybody was called, I didn't have to worry about it getting done."

"There were a lot of people who were breadwinners, who knew they couldn't go to jail," he said "But they were there, making meals and driving and serving refreshments ... they were taking risks. And McCree did it all with a smile."

Angela Whitmal, the executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum, said Harris was instrumental in the museum's creation.

"From the inception of the idea of a museum, she worked very hard to make it a reality," she said. "I'm glad she could be here to see the museum after it opened" in November 1998.

Several community leaders lauded Harris' ability to unite diverse groups.

"She always wound up making a positive contribution," Keenan said.

Coleman said Harris was "one of those people that could bring everybody together, whether they were white or black or young or old. What she said meant a lot to everybody.

In 1999, Harris was honored as the National Community Leader of the Year by the Black Women Community Leaders Program. In June, the Albany Past Presidents Sertoma Club nominated her as the Service to Mankind award winner for 2000-2001.

"I'm a native Albanian," Harris said in September after being chosen as the National Community Leader of the Year. "I've lived, worked and almost died here my whole life. I've enjoyed every minute."

Copyright © 2000, The Albany Herald

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