Duke Flags Lowered: Trustee Emerita Margaret Harris Dies

Margaret Adams Harris, 97, died April 14, 2014. She was a resident at the Carolina House in Durham in the Clarebridge memory care wing and was under the care of Duke HomeCare and Hospice's Hock Family Pavilion at the time of her death.

A memorial service will be conducted at West Market Street United Methodist Church in Greensboro on Saturday, April 19, at 11:00 AM with Reverends David S. Melton and Bill Ellison officiating. A reception at the church will follow.

She is survived by her three children, Charles Marcus Harris and wife Jean of Charlotte, Thomas Adams Harris and wife Polly of Durham and Ann Harris Franceschini of Burgaw; her brother, Robert B. Adams of Yardley, PA, and sister, Julia A. Roberts of Cleveland, OH; three grandchildren, Anna Harris Else of Cockeysville, MD, Kimball Kennedy Polanik of Wilmington and Adam Stage Harris of Tokyo, Japan; three great-grandchildren, Margaret Kennedy Else, Gavin Joshua Else and Gaea Alexandria Polanik; and her foreign exchange student "daughter," Chris Gibbs Beal of Papakura, New Zealand. She was predeceased by her husband, R. Kennedy Harris, her brother, Charles B. Adams, and her grandson, Charles Redding Harris.

Margaret was born to Charles S. and Annie B. Adams of St. Lawrence, PA on September 13, 1916. She was salutatorian of her high school class in Reading, PA, before attending Duke University, where she received her bachelor's degree in 1938 and law degree in 1940. She was the only woman student attending Duke Law School her graduation year, marking the start of a trailblazing career of professional and civic activity. She and her classmate husband, Ken, married and set up their law practice together in Greensboro in the fall of 1940. Other than Ken's tour of duty in the FBI during WWII, Margaret and Ken made Greensboro their home for the rest of their years together.

Margaret left the practice of law during her children's formative years, returning to it in 1952. During those years she began a lifetime of community service that eventually led to many leadership roles. She was active in the PTA, serving as a school president and later as president of the citywide PTA councils, posts that eventually led to her appointment to the Greensboro Public Schools Board of Education. She served on the school board for eight years, including four tumultuous years of school integration, during which she was a voice of calm and reason and was the first woman to serve as its chair.

She served faithfully in numerous lay positions at West Market Street United Methodist Church, including a term as the first woman to chair the church's governing Board of Stewards. She particularly loved her fellow members in the Morris-Fellowship Sunday School Class and her circle.

Other civic service included being a longtime member of the board of directors of the Greensboro Historical Society, member and president of the Greensboro Altrusa Club, member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society for Key Women Educators, and a board member of Greensboro Urban Ministries, where she volunteered at the food pantry well into her eighties. Margaret also was appointed to the commission to establish the first domestic relations court in Guilford County and to build its first juvenile detention facility, and served on the board of directors of the Guilford County Equal Opportunity Council.

Margaret was recognized for her roles as a devoted wife and mother and as a public servant by being named Greensboro's "Mother of the Year" in 1967 and the Greensboro Outstanding Civic Leader in 1974. Throughout these years of volunteer service, she successfully pursued a career as a practicing lawyer in the field of estate and tax law and was a devoted mother to her children. Among the many loving ways she supported them, Margaret served as a Cub Scout den mother and a Girl Scout leader.

Margaret also provided years of leadership and service to her beloved alma mater. She was the first woman president of the Duke General Alumni Association and the Duke Half Century Club. She served 12 years on the Duke University Board of Trustees, during which she worked closely with Athletic Director Tom Butters to implement Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that Duke women athletes had opportunities and financial support equal to Duke's male athletes.

After her retirement, Margaret received the Distinguished Service Award from the Greensboro Bar Association. The closing remarks during that presentation aptly described her civic life: "Margaret has served in all of these capacities with energy and tireless devotion, never seeking recognition or praise. She has enriched all of those organizations in which she has become involved. I have never known Margaret to raise her voice in anger or to say anything negative about anyone. She has a grace and demeanor that radiates and positively affects all those who know her." In addition to all this, Margaret had a good sense of humor that she shared joyously with her loving family and all others who knew her.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Greensboro Urban Ministries, West Market Street United Methodist Church, or Duke University.

Online condolences may be made at www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes.com.