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Keynote Speaker

Dr. Valda Harris Montgomery

Dr. Valda Harris Montgomery is a native of Montgomery, AL and the second child of Richard and Vera Harris. Dr. Richard Harris was a pharmacist and owner of Dean Drug Store, one of the oldest black pharmacies in Montgomery. There he coordinated transportation during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was also a Tuskegee Airman. From May 21-24, 1961, Dr. Harris and his wife courageously opened their home to the Freedom Riders and many civil rights leaders as a safe haven for rest and strategic planning. In 2006, Dr. Montgomery successfully sought historic recognition in the form of a marker for the Harris House and has opened the family home to tourists. She has documented childhood memories of the Civil Rights Movement in a book, “Just ANeighbor”, which highlights the relationship of her family and that of Martin Luther King, Jr. She continues to share her experiences through speaking engagements, presentations, symposiums and book signings to national and international audiences. Dr. Montgomery recently served as President of the Patrons for the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture at Alabama State University and presently as President of the Friends of the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Academically, she earned a Bachelor of Science from Fisk University, a Master of Education from Alabama State University, a Master of Sport Science from the United States Sports Academy, and a PhD in Exercise Physiology from Auburn University. Her research focused on obesity and related issues in African American females.

In 2012, she received the ASU President’s Award for Teaching Excellence and others including the Distinguished Women’s Award from Fisk University.

She is a retired Associate Professor in the Clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.