Retired Richmond educator Shirley E.S. Harris dies at age 89

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/14/2023, 6 p.m.
Shirley Estelle Savage Harris spent four decades seeking to instill a love of learning in local Richmond schoolchildren. Mrs. Harris ...
Mrs. Harris

Shirley Estelle Savage Harris spent four decades seeking to instill a love of learning in local Richmond schoolchildren.

Mrs. Harris was best known for the more than 30 years she taught at William Fox Elementary School.

“She was passionate about teaching and her students and well known for her creativity, as she employed both music and faraway places in her lessons,” said her daughter, Kelly Harris-Braxton, executive director of Virginia First Cities.

“She often said that her favorite grade to teach was the second grade,” her daughter said, “because the children developed empathy for others, became aware of their surroundings and were a delight.”

Mrs. Harris’ impact on at least two generations of city students is being remembered following her death from illness on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, at her Richmond home. Her death came just a few days after she celebrated her 89th birthday.

Family and friends will celebrate Mrs. Harris’ life at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at Scott’s Funeral Home Chapel, 116 E. Brookland Park Blvd. She will be entombed at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Mrs. Harris began her 41-year career as a Richmond Public Schools teacher after graduating from Virginia State University.

She later added a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. She retired from Richmond Public Schools in 1996.

Described as a creative person, Mrs. Harris had multiple interests. Known for her infectious laugh, she was a self-taught artist who enjoyed painting landscapes in oil and acrylic. She also gardened, arranged flowers, dabbled in interior design and fashion, loved to travel and made music, particularly jazz, a significant element of her life.

Mrs. Harris was a member of the Richmond Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Richmond Chapter of the Moles, which will present the organization’s Celebration of Life Ceremony prior to the funeral service.

Mrs. Harris was the widow of Archie L. Harris Sr., who spent 54 years with Richmond Public Schools as a teacher, principal and director of building maintenance.

Survivors include her two children, Archie Lee Harris Jr., a lawyer, actor and former NFL football player and Ms. Harris-Braxton; two sisters, Sandra S. Mundle and LaVerna S. Johnson; and four grandsons.

The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Exodus Foundation, a mentoring program based in Henderson, N.C., that seeks to develop positive outcomes for African-American youths.