Longtime community member and activist Doris Harper Allen has died

Allen was very active within the NAACP, an author, and an honorary doctorate graduate of JMU.
Mayor Deanna Reed shares life and legacy of Doris Harper Allen.
Published: Mar. 7, 2021 at 5:16 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Trailblazer and community member, Doris Harper Allen, died this past week.

Allen grew up in the Northeast Neighborhood in Harrisonburg and was one of six siblings.

Allen was Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed’s aunt, but Reed said anyone who knew her well also called her “Aunt Doris.”

“She was an icon here in Harrisonburg. She was a trailblazer, she was an activist, she served her community, she was all of that,” Reed said.

Allen was an author, and wrote two books in her later years.

She was very active within the NAACP chapter in Harrisonburg and in Huntington, West Virginia where she lived for many years.

Reed said Allen will be remembered for how she served her community.

“She would make a big pot of cabbage and sausage that was one of her dishes...and cornbread. She would go through the community and serve people who [were] in need. And I’m talking about in her senior years she was doing that,” Reed said.

In 2019, Allen received an honorary doctorate degree from James Madison University at the age of 93, and in February of 2021 a building on JMU’s campus was renamed in her honor.

Allen was barred from attending, then Madison College, due to racial barriers at the time, and is the 34th person to receive an honorary doctorate from JMU.

She was also a dedicated staff member in the dining services at the University.

Reed said her aunt loved JMU, Eastern Mennonite University, VMRC, where she lived, her community in Huntington, and her church among many others.

She said Allen lived a fulfilled life and touched many lives along the way.

“Doris Harper Allen will be missed in this community, but her legacy will definitely live on,” Reed said.

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