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Accession number A2003.091
Collection Harris Family
Title The Harris Family Collection
Catalog Number A2003.091
Object Name Papers, Personal
Credit line Collection of the AAMI - Gift of Lileah Harris
Dates of Creation 1920-2000
Access Conditions Open for research - scans only
Copyrights no known restrictions
Scope & Content 37 scans of family photos of Percy G. Harris, M.D. and his wife, Lileah
Biographical History Percy Harris was born in Mississippi in 1927. In 1938, at the age of 11, Harris was orphaned. After tests showed that Harris might have tuberculosis, he was committed to a segregated tuberculosis sanitarium in Memphis, Tennessee. Although he never did suffer from the disease, Harris lived in the sanitarium for two years. While there, adult patients taught him how to read.
In 1940 Harris went to live with his aunt, a fortuneteller who would read palms, tea leaves, and coffee grounds. From 1940-1946 Harris attended high school, but dropped out twice to work in a post office. He eventually graduated from Waterloo's East High School at the age of 19.
Harris went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. While in school he worked as a janitor and an elevator operator.
In 1957 Harris moved to Cedar Rapids, and became the first black person to ever intern at St. Luke's Hospital. While in Cedar Rapids Harris struggled with racism, as no one would rent housing to him. After he completed his internship in 1959 Harris sought property to build his own home. A lot became available through Harris' church - St. Paul Methodist- but Harris struggled to acquire the lot. Harris' interest had caused controversy, and despite a split among church members, Harris was eventually allowed to buy the property in 1961. Harris and wife Lileah received local press for challenging the 'whites only' makeup of one of Cedar Rapids's most prestigious neighborhoods.
In 1977 Iowa Governor Robert Ray appointed Harris to the state Board of Regents.
In 1999 Harris retired at the age of 72.

Two terms on the Iowa State Board of Regents
Positions of high responsibility at both Cedar Rapids hospitals
Leadership in local civil rights movements
Only medical examiner in Linn County's history
Volunteer doctor for the athletes of Jefferson High School
President of Jane Boyd Community House, Cedar Rapids
Life long member of NAACP

Mrs. Harris grew up in Waterloo, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Fergusen. Mrs. Harris had 2 years at Iowa Teacher's College, married and had 12 children. She has been active in community affairs in Cedar Rapids.
Lileah Furgerson Harris, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, during the Great Depression. The daughter of tha city's first black physician and one of its first black educators, she learned early on the importance of education. After high school, she attended Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa). Two years later she married Percy G. Harris and moved with him to Washington D.C. while he finished medical school. In 1957 they settled in Cedar Rapids. Lileah put her formal education on hold while raising 12 children and becoming active in the community. In 1993, she fulfilled her lifelong goal and graduated with a degree in Russian from the University of Iowa. An ardent believer in education, she served on many school committees and became the first African-American PTA president at Erskine Elementary and Washington High Schools. Lileah also served on the advisory board for the Jane Boyd Community House and the Minnesota Early Learning Design program, which addressed the problems of parents in crisis. She served on the Human Relations Council and the Human Rights Commission throughout the 70s and 80s, focusing on housing equality. Lileah was president of the All Saints Catholic Church Parish Council and served on the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Association, Jane Boyd Community House, the NAACP and the Cedar Rapids Symphony Guild. She has also been an important contributor to the work of the African American Museum of Iowa. Lileah viewed her service and volunteerism as an avenue for improving opportunities for African-Americans and ensuring justice for all people.
Lileah Harris was awarded the 2011 Pillar of the Community Award at the Waypoint Tribute to Women event. This award is given when there is one honoree whose accomplishments, over an extended period of time and in multiple categories, reflect extraordinary contributions to our community. Lileah was recognizred for her lifetime of service, volunteerism, and advocacy for improving opportunities for all community members.

Subjects Churches
Search Terms Medicine
Cedar Rapids
Fort Madison
Social activities
Churches - Catholic
People Harris, Dr. Percy
Harris, Lileah
Ferguson, B.J.
Harper, Dr. Harry, Sr.
Belle, Haywood
Classification Medicine & Doctors
Domestic Life
Social & Personal Activity