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About Us

Harris Home For Children has impacted
over 1,000,000 lives since 1954

It All Started with Chessie Harris

Special Thanks to Our Ongoing Supporters

You change lives

Harris Home For Children is a private, 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Agency providing full-time Foster Care Services and Crisis Support for neglected adolescent children in the Huntsville, Alabama community and around the state of Alabama.

Harris Home For Children is the only Licensed Emergency Crisis Service in the state of Alabama. When children unexpectedly find themselves without a safe space to sleep, or wondering where they will get their next meal, Harris Home For Children is the only place to turn.


Harris Home For Children seeks to provide the highest level of Foster Care, Therapeutic Care, and Educational Services through a variety of programs including our: Crisis, Basic, Moderate, and BOOST! Programs.

Board of Directors

  • Dr. Leon Frazier: Board Chair

  • Dr. Barbara Cady

  • Eddie Williams

  • Jesse Johnson

  • Barbara Rich

  • Reginald McKenzie (Ex Officio)

Chessie Harris

Chessie Harris was the oldest of two daughters born in Tuskegee, Alabama, to John Thomas and Lillie Belle Walker on January 16, 1906. When Chessie was growing up in rural Alabama, hungry children gathered around her lunch bucket at Pine Grove School in Little Texas, Alabama. “Y’all is rich,” they’d whisper, seeing the cornbread pudding her mother made from the family’s meager shelves. She could not forget those wistful faces. She wanted to do something to keep children from the unique suffering of hunger.

But how? She was the daughter of sharecroppers, the granddaughter of slaves, the child of a family barely surviving. Only through her mother’s unrelenting economy and her father’s back-breaking labor in the fields could they scrape by. No money or time was left over for anything else.

One afternoon in a cornfield at eight years old, Chessie thought about the meaning of her life. If God would let her, she vowed, she would get an education and spend her life making children happy.


Chessie convinced her parents to send her to boarding school, knowing that she would have to help earn the money. Her 14th summer was spent picking 200 pounds of cotton a day and tying fodder faster than any grown man. She enrolled at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and lived on campus.


Chessie married George Harris, a galvanizer, and raised five children of her own, while taking in many displaced children during the Depression and War years.


When the Harris family moved to Alabama, Chessie again saw raggedy, sad-eyed children, hungry for love as well as food. Watching a little fellow cook meat scraps in a tin can one day, she remembered her cornfield promise 40 years before. Determined to help, she went from one city official to another, hoping to start a home for neglected and abandoned children. Many thought she was crazy. She would never be able to get support for black children, they implied. Undaunted, Chessie hurried from every closed door, certain the next would open.


Chessie initially opened her own doors to homeless waifs. They came by the dozens–mostly black, outcasts of society. Her own house was so full of laughing, loving children that she had to bed one baby in a trunk. Convinced finally by what they saw, a few community leaders began to help, first from their own pockets and then through their influence. At last, Harris Home For Children – the only facility of its kind in Alabama – was born.


Chessie was “Mama Harris” to thousands of boys and girls, both black and white. Some of her “children” have become teachers, nurses, and business owners, and have pursued varied professional careers. Honored with a myriad of state and national humanitarian awards, Chessie received the 1989 President’s Volunteer Action Award from President George Bush on April 11, 1989.

Chessie & George Harris

Chessie Harris Photos

The Chessie Harris Story

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