Andrea Harris, minority economic development trailblazer and The Institute co-founder, dies

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Andrea Harris, co-founder of The Institute and a trailblazer for minority economic development on Durham's Black Wall Street, died Wednesday, according to long-time friend Lew Myers.

Myers said Harris had been battling a "long illness" before she died at Duke Hospital.

Harris and Myers co-founded The Institute, a nonprofit minority-economic-development office, in 1986. Back in the 1980s, Harris previously told ABC11, North Carolina was doing less than 1 percent of its business with minorities and women. In 2019, thanks in part to her efforts, that number was up to 15 percent.

Harris, a giant on Durham's Black Wall Street, won many leadership and business awards throughout her lifetime, including multiple Orders of the Long Leaf Pine, the state's highest honor.

In response to her death, former Durham Mayor Bill Bell said, "A tremendous loss to the community for which she so ably served."

Gov. Roy Cooper released the following statement later Wednesday:

"Andrea Harris was a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social and racial equity in our state. When doors were intentionally shut, she broke through for women and minority-owned businesses to succeed, modeled excellence in advocacy and mentored scores of freedom fighters. She left an indelible impact on North Carolina's business and African American communities, and she will be missed. Kristin and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to her friends and loved ones."

Congressman G.K. Butterfield said, "Andrea Harris lived a life of passion, humility and unwavering dedication to breaking barriers and blazing trails for the economic advancement of minority groups. From being the youngest community agency director in the nation at age 23 to serving as co-founder of the Senior Fellow of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development in Durham; Andrea dedicated her life's work to the imperative economic principle that prosperity must be shared and never isolated.

Butterfield called Harris a personal friend for more than 40 years.

"Though she was the recipient of many awards and recognitions for her work in business and leadership - above all, Andrea Harris is beautifully adorned by the doors that she has opened, the opportunities that she has fostered and the lasting impact she has made on individuals, businesses and minority communities in North Carolina. Her legacy continues to challenge us all to be better, to speak up, to make our voices heard and our purpose clear," he added.
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