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Harris, Lileah, 1931-2014



  • Existence: 1931 - 2014


(Evelyn) Lileah Harris was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, one of the five children of Lee B. and Lily Furgerson. Lee Furgerson was a physician; Lily Furgerson became an elementary school teacher after she was widowed in 1948, earning a teaching certificate and finishing college at Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa). Lileah Furgerson's interest in music was encouraged by her parents, and at Iowa State Teachers College, she studied piano. Lileah Furgerson married Percy Harris at age nineteen. They lived in Washington, D.C. from 1950-1957 while Percy Harris studied medicine at Howard University. During that time, their first children were born and Lileah Harris worked as a clerk typist at the Pentagon and elsewhere. They returned to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they raised their twelve children and Percy Harris practiced medicine. Lileah Harris was engaged in a wide range of community activities, particularly those that tackled problems of inequality. She served on the Cedar Rapids Human Rights Commission until 1975, resigning when pregnant with her last child. She was on the Commission's team that investigated a sex discrimination charge by two teachers who were required to stop teaching at the end of their fifth month of pregnancy. Lileah Harris was active with the Washington High School PTA from 1982-1988 and served as president in 1984-1985. She was a member of the Multicultural Nonsexist Committee in the early 1980s, which successfully attracted black teachers to the district and introduced an integration plan for the Cedar Rapids School System. Lileah Harris was part of a committee that examined and brought about changes in the selection criteria for cheerleaders at Washington High that discriminated against minority students. Harris received a number of awards and honors recognizing her service to the Cedar Rapids schools. Lileah Harris also served on the advisory board of the Jane Boyd Community House, which offered a wide range of community services for at-risk individuals of all ages, and Minnesota Early Learning Design, 1986-88, which addressed the problems of parents in crisis. She and her husband were avid supporters of the arts; Lileah Harris was publicity chair for the Cedar Rapids Symphony in 1973-74. Like her mother, Harris returned to school at midlife, enrolling in the University of Iowa in 1988. In 1993, at the age of sixty-two, Harris earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian and received the Dean's Achievement Award from the College of Liberal Arts.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lileah Harris papers

Identifier: IWA0256

Professional volunteer active in several arts, civic, educational, and religious organizations in Cedar Rapids.

Dates: 1961-2014