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House votes unanimously to put Curtis Harris' name on Hopewell post-office building

Measure's sponsor, Virginia's senators believe Senate will also sign off on naming downtown landmark after the late civil-rights leader who made Hopewell his home base

Bill Atkinson,
The Progress-Index

WASHINGTON — The post office in Hopewell has moved a step closer to being renamed after a former civil-rights icon whose home base was the city.

On Monday, the House of Representatives cleared a resolution that would put the name of the Rev. Curtis W. Harris on the Poythress Street building. Next stop is the Senate, where Virginia's two senators said they were certain the measure would be approved.

The resolution was introduced last year by Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia.

McEachin, who persuaded his 10 House colleagues from Virginia to make the resolution bipartisan, said in a statement released by his office late Monday that Harris' legacy "has left an indelible mark" on communities across the state,

Curtis W. Harris

"Reverent. Harris was committed to bringing people from all walks of life together," McEachin said. "In that same spirit, today’s unanimous House passage of my bipartisan legislation to rename the Hopewell Post Office in his honor is only fitting."

McEachin said he was confident the resolution would also clear the Senate, a sentiment echoed in a joint statement by Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine after the House vote.

“From participating in the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery to leading sit-ins against segregated Hopewell lunch counters, Reverend Harris helped pursue change against racial inequities," they said. "With today’s House passage, we are one step closer to paying tribute to a man who inspired all to do their part in the fight for social justice.”

Harris was the founder of the Virginia Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization started by his friend and mentor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He led several civil-rights activities in the Tri-City area, including a 1987 through predominantly white Colonial Heights to ensure Black-owned contracting companies would have representation in helping to build Southpark Mall.

He also was responsible for getting the City Council ward system in place for Hopewell, and later served both as a councilman and city mayor. He died in 2017.

The post office building on Poythress Street dates back to 1936. It is known for an interior mural painted by artist Edmund Archer in 1939 of Captain Francis Epes, who sailed to the New World aboard the ship “Hopewell,” shaking hands with a member of the Appomatox Native American tribe who occupied the City Point area prior to English colonization.

If approved by the Senate, the post office would bear the name "Reverend Curtis West Harris Post Office Building." It would be the second memorial to Harris in Hopewell. Six years ago, City Council renamed Terminal Street in his honor.

Work still is under way to get a bust of Harris placed in downtown's Ashford Civic Plaze near one of King.

You can reach Bill Atkinson at Follow him at @BAtkinson_PI. Follow The Progress-Index on Twitter at @ProgressIndex.