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  Name:   Mr. Lee Harris
Month: December 2005
Schools: Morehouse BA 2000, Yale Law JD 2003
Organization: University of Memphis
Title: Assistant Professor of Law

I grew up in a working class community in Memphis, the son of career public school teachers and a proud product of Memphis' public schools.

After college at Morehouse and law school at Yale, I returned to Memphis, TN, to press on efforts on behalf of working families and others whose most important issues are a good education, dependable healthcare, and fair wages.

For instance, I have been involved with a non-profit organization, Goodwill Homes. The organization operates in the very neighborhood I grew up in (and, literally, a stone's throw from my family church). At Goodwill Homes, we run a senior center, dozens of affordable housing units, and a pre-K program for about 100 kids from low-income families.

After a couple of years working on the organization's administrative board, I was recently elected to chair the pre-K program, where I think we are doing amazing things. In our program, one of only a handful of federally-funded programs in Memphis, we are teaching kids how to recognize numbers, letters and words. We provide health and dental check-ups, teach kids how to brush and floss, and build social skills. Plus, we've got the community involved in education. For instance, our parents volunteer to attend long (and sometimes boring) board meetings and training programs.

In addition to my work on at Goodwill Homes, I am a law professor at the University of Memphis. My research agenda revolves around topics, like school finance, welfare reform, property taxes, business regulation, and tenants' rights. Since probably the majority of my students are older than I am and nearly all from the Memphis area, I find myself constantly learning from their varied life experiences and about this community.

Also, I remain an active member of the bar in Memphis. In fact, a year ago, colleagues elected me to serve as a director for the Young Lawyers Division of the local bar association, where I co-chaired the Committee on Public Service and co-directed the city's High School Mock Trial Competition. Furthermore, I was recently nominated to the Memphis Leo Bearman, Sr. Chapter of the American Inns of Court, an organization committed to attorney ethics and professionalism.

Finally, I believe mentorship is important, so that's why I've also been a volunteer "Big Sib" for Memphis Big Brothers/Big Sisters. My Little's perspective on the world is at once astute and simple. When asked what to do about The Pyramid, our city's pointy and now vacant sports arena downtown, my Little responds, why not turn it into a giant waterslide and let kids use it?

Right now, I am in the early stages of preparing to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in Memphis, where our current congressman, Harold Ford, has decided not to seek re-election. I am a Democrat and my experiences tell me that our government could play a powerful role in supporting working families. So far, my Yale classmates, though not Tennesseans, have proved to be my most valuable resource as I begin to build a grassroots organization down here. I would encourage all interested to visit our website, www.leeharrisformemphis.com.

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