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Pearlie Harris is Named 2019 MLK Citizenship Award Winner

posted Dec 22, 2018, 6:14 AM by Bobby Clark   [ updated Dec 24, 2019, 4:55 PM ]
Greenville, South Carolina -  Born in 1936 in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Pearlie was the third of four children and the only girl. After the family moved into a log cabin in rural Saluda, North Carolina, Harris spent summers singing with the Billy Graham Crusade in Montreat. After high school, she attended Barber-Scotia College where she majored in education and landed her first job teaching fifth grade in Beaufort. It was there in 1960 she met her husband, a Marine drill instructor at Parris Island.
In 1963, they moved to Greenville so Harris could care for her ailing mother. Both their sons were born here and reared in her husband's religion, which she confessed, is how she came to be a Catholic. In the Upstate, Harris taught at the Washington Middle School and then at Burgess Elementary. Both were segregated, she said. Later, Harris taught at Sara Collins Elementary and then in the gifted program. While working and raising her sons, she pursued a graduate degree, earning her master's from Furman University in 1983.
After 37 years of teaching, she retired. She wanted to find a way to help her community and extend her personal mission of faith, help, and hope. And just days later, she said, she was drafted by a friend to be a volunteer at St. Francis, working first at the reception desk and then on the internal review board assessing clinical trials. She served as Eucharistic minister and on the St. Francis Foundation Board sharing her wisdom and community knowledge. In 2009, she was approached to serve on the Board of Directors for St. Francis Health System where she became the first woman and the first ethnic person to serve as chair of the board.
On October 20, 2011, a family that had a lot of history with St. Francis donated a building and named it The Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health.
Over the years, along with volunteering at St. Francis, Harris has served on the boards of the Urban League of the Upstate, the Greenville Symphony Guild, the Greenville Chorale and the Greenville County Museum of Art where she spent hundreds of hours at the museum as a docent, sharing her love of art with children. A congregant of St. Mary's Church in Mauldin, she's a member of the Catholic Fellowship and the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women Historians and was named the 2010 South Carolina State Catholic Woman of the Year. She has served as chair of the American Heart Association's Go Red campaign, a volunteer at the BMW Golf Tournament and a member of the St. Mary's School PTA.
In addition to the vast support she has lent St. Francis, she has been instrumental in leading the Greenville Mardi Gras Gala, a signature event which raises thousands of dollars for critical needs throughout the Upstate; has served on the board of St. Joseph's High School for more than a decade; served two years as President of St. Mary's Woman's Club and has given leadership to various boards including Operation Shoe Horn. Currently, she is on the Board at Center Stage and Greenville County Museum of Art. She is the President of Unity Health on Main and vice president of the Greenville County Youth Orchestra.

We are extremely proud to select Pearlie Harris as our 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Citizenship Award Winner. Please join us as we honor her work at the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Gala on January 13, 2019. 


Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on December 4, 1906. The Gamma Gamma Lambda Chapter was chartered on August 24, 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina under the Umbrella of the National Organization and the first African-American Greek-Letter Alumni Chapter in the Upstate of South Carolina.

Established in 2012 as a public 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempted organization, Alpha Phi Alpha Greenville Foundation's mission is to aid the poor and disadvantaged and help them toward a life of self-sufficiency. Our programs address teenage pregnancy prevention, college preparation & awareness, educational scholarships, youth leadership development, and other similar programs. We serve the Upstate area of South Carolina and are affiliated with the Gamma Gamma Lambda Chapter of ΑΦΑ in Greenville, South Carolina.