Oral History with Rayford L. Harris, Jr. (R'77)

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Oral History with Rayford L. Harris, Jr. (R'77)


In this oral history interview, Rayford L. Harris, Jr. (R’77) sat down with Rena Xiao (’20) and Eden Wolfer (’20) on July 1, 2018, in Boatwright Memorial Library. Over the course of the one hour and forty minute interview, Harris shares about how he ended up at the University of Richmond via his orthodontist William Tyler Haynes; his first experiences on campus; being one of 12 Black students in his incoming class; interactions with fraternities, the baseball team, and intramural sports; the experience of forming social circles as a commuter student; the organization of the first Black student organization SOBA; the first attempt to bring a Black fraternity (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.) to campus; some of the first Black History Weeks at the university; dating and friendships with white women on campus; switching from pre-med to a math major; interactions with other students of color on campus; attending the university during the Vietnam War and the sexual revolution; relationships with staff members; dealing with stereotypes about Black students on campus; his contributions to the university as an alum; reflects on the changes at the university since his time on campus; friendships and interactions with Black women on campus; gives advice to current students of color; his career in the City of Richmond government; and finally shares a story about his father, Rayford L. Harris, Sr., a lifelong friend of civil rights attorney Oliver Hill.


Rayford L. Harris, Jr. is a native of Richmond and a proud product of Richmond Public Schools.  He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and matriculated at the University of Richmond, Richmond College in the fall of 1973.  After visiting the campus at the insistence of Dr. William Tyler Haynes, his orthodontist, Rayford selected Richmond over Hampton University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia, among others.

Starting as a Pre-Med student, he eventually followed his true calling and majored in Mathematics.  During his time at UR, he was on the baseball team and coached by Chuck Boone.  Other activities included intramural basketball and being a member of SOBA – the Student Organization for Black Awareness.  He graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts. 

After graduating, there was a brief four-year teaching career with Richmond Public Schools where Rayford taught Mathematics at Henderson Middle School, John Marshall and Maggie Walker High Schools, and the Marshall-Walker (combined) High School.  During that time he also coached Girls’ Basketball, Softball, and Baseball.

In 1981, Rayford began a 33-year career with the City of Richmond.  He began as a Programmer Trainee and advanced to Lead Programmer.  He ended the Information Technology part of his tenure as a Lead Systems Developer having been involved with most of the City’s automated systems. 

The other half of his City Career was with the Department of Budget and Strategic Planning where he began as a Senior Budget & Management Analyst.  Over the years, he was promoted to Deputy Director and ultimately appointed by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder as the Director of Budget and Strategic Planning.  After serving under a second Mayor, Dwight C. Jones, Rayford retired from the City in December of 2013.

After retirement, Rayford served as the CFO for a small Non Profit Agency, Quin Rivers Inc. – A Community Action Agency and “re-retired” June 30, 2019.

Other activities include being a CIGNA Mentor, a Spider Club Member, serving on the Boards of the North Richmond YMCA, the RVA Financial Federal Credit Union, the Richmond First Club, and multiple Foundations of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Rayford also has a niece who graduated as a Spider in 2017.  They both look forward to sharing the same reunion years that end in 2 and 7.


This oral history is available for academic purposes--including but not limited to research by students, faculty, and staff--by permission from the interviewee (Rayford L. Harris, Jr.). The interviewee maintains the copyright, and must be contacted via the Race & Racism Project (urraceproject@gmail.com) for permissions for use outside of academic purposes.







Richmond (Va.)

Oral History Item Type Metadata



Rayford L. Harris, Jr.


Boatwright Memorial Library Seminar Room 2
University of Richmond
28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173



Date of Interview

July 1, 2018



“Oral History with Rayford L. Harris, Jr. (R'77),” University of Richmond Race & Racism Project, accessed June 25, 2024, https://memory.richmond.edu/items/show/3075.