Civil rights icon stepping down from Hopewell City Council

Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-29 19:22:56-05

Hopewell, Va (WTVR) A civil rights icon is stepping down from his seat on Hopewell City Council.

Rev. Curtis Harris, 87, helped change the election laws for the city of Hopewell and was first elected to office in 1986. It took 7 previous attempts.

In 1998, he became the city’s first African-American Mayor.

Now 26 years after that first election, health issues and concerns raised by his family have influenced Rev. Harris’s decision to retire from city council.

His decision comes as petitions for his removal from office were set to go to Hopewell Circuit Court. Signatures were gathered from voters in his ward, who were concerned they were being represented because of the number of meetings he has missed in the past year and a half.

Harris said though that outsiders didn’t influence his decision, and that he made it on his own. His family agrees that the decision was all his.

In 1983, after years of effort, Harris finally helped change how city council is elected in Hopewell.

In the turbulent 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, Harris marched beside Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama, trying to change election laws in this country.

Harris said he may not be sitting on city council anymore but he will continue to serve his community, just as he has for decades.

Hopewell City Council has asked the circuit court to allow them to make an interim appointment to fill the vacancy and to allow a special election to fill the seat, during the Nov. 62012 election.