- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) Jean Louise Harris, who broke racial barriers as a physician and later as a Virginia Cabinet secretary, died of lung cancer Friday in a hospital in Eden Prairie, Minn., where she was mayor. She was 70.
As state secretary of human resources from 1978 to 1982, she was the first woman and first black person to serve in a Virginia governor's Cabinet.
Dr. Harris accompanied her physician father on house calls while growing up in Richmond. She graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Union University and in 1955 became the first black student to graduate from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV).
Dr. Harris did an internship at MCV and her residency at MCV and the University of Rochester.
She practiced medicine in Washington, where she served as chief of the D.C. health department's bureau of resources development. Then she served as director of the National Medical Association Foundation while commuting to Los Angeles as assistant clinical professor of family practice at Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School.
She also taught at Howard and Johns Hopkins universities and the University of California at Los Angeles.
In 1973, she became the first black faculty member at MCV, working as professor of family practice and director of the school's community health center program.
Dr. Harris, then a Democrat, was a Cabinet secretary in the administration of Gov. John N. Dalton, a Republican.
In 1982, she became one of the first female vice presidents of a Fortune 500 company by serving as vice president for state marketing programs at Control Data Corp. in Bloomington, Minn.
She retired in 1998 as first senior associate director and director of medical affairs at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics.
She was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Minnesota lieutenant governor in 1990.
Survivors include her husband, Leslie J. Ellis; three daughters, Saraja Sarasvati and Cynthia Ellis, both of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Pamela Ellis of Richmond; a half brother, Vernon Harris of Marcy, N.Y.; and a sister, Dr. Diane Marsh of Richmond.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide