Essie Gordon Harris was born and raised in the Champaign area. She is the sixth of eight children, mother of four, grandmother of twenty, great‐grandmother of two. She graduated from Central High School and attended Parkland Community College. She is a member of Salem Baptist Church. She has worked for the Champaign Public Library since 1969 and has been Branch Manager at the Douglass Branch Library for the last eight years. She has has initiated many youth activities and encouraged community involvement at the Branch. She has been a board member of the Champaign‐Urbana Area Project for the last 17 years and is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Post 559, and had also served on the Family Service Board. She volunteers a great deal in the community and helped start the Eager Beaver Preschool that was at the Douglass Center. Among her awards are: Crystal Laws Green Parent of the Year, Douglass Day Camp, Milestone Award for Continuous Commitment and Involvement in Douglass Community Center Programs, Women of Distinction Award, the Girls Scouts, and Randolph Street Community Garden’s Praise and Honor Camellia Award.
Essie was featured in Difference Makers 2010: An eBlack Champaign-Urbana Publication.