Among Frances Miller Harris’ favorite scripture was, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 (KJV) (Courtesy photo)

Best known as the 2nd National President of the Business and Professional Women’s Federation (B&PWF) Church of God in Christ, former Memphian Frances Miller Harris died in California on Nov. 22.

She was 82.

Born Frances Hazel Peterson on November 11, 1938 to the union of Russell Peterson and Kizzie Bell Willett, she grew up in Memphis, where she met and married Gene “Bowlegs” Miller, and where she raised their son, Christopher Daniel Miller. 

Family and friends knew her as “Fran.” Fran and Bowlegs were married 31 years until his death on Christmas day, 1987.

In the early ’60s, “Fran” became the first Black store manager on Main Street in Downtown Memphis. Later, she managed an Atlanta-owned wig store, The WigWam. For 30 years, she owned and operated two retail stores: Frangenechislyn, Inc. and Fran’s Designer Fashions.

While in Memphis, Fran served her community 35 years through coordinating fashion shows and contributing to charitable, religious and civic organizations. She was one of the event coordinators of the 1st Miss Black Memphis Pageant. 

After her marriage to James Harris, Fran moved to Richmond, California. She owned Harris and Harris Designer Fashions for 12 years and worked as an event planner, workshop coordinator and speaker.

Frances Miller Harris (Courtesy photo)

She was appointed B&PWF national president on November 11, 1999 by General Supervisor Emeritus Mother Willie Mae Rivers, serving 18 years. Her favorite act of service was hosting the “Annual Women of the Year Awards Luncheon,” which enabled the organization to donate thousands of dollars to needy non-profit organizations in the city where the Church of God in Christ Annual Women’s International Convention was held. 

In December 2017, she retired as B&PWF National President. In 2018, General Supervisor Dr. Barbara McCoo Lewis appointed her as advisor to the current B&PWF National President Mother Bonnie Jean McPeak.

A member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, where COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. is pastor, her service in ministry was extensive and deeply rooted. 

Fran also was a published songwriter by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and a member of Bridgeport Music, Inc.

She was preceded in death by her parents and three brothers: Edward Eugene Works, Russell Peterson Jr. and Lindsey Earl Peterson Sr. 

She leaves her son Christopher and his wife Lanis; grandsons Shun, Christopher II, Benjamin, Nicholas and great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her siblings: Ralph (Beverly) Peterson (Cleveland, Ohio), Dr. Freda Williams and Levern Garner, both of Memphis, and Regenia Blackmon (Midland, Texas).

The service celebrating her life is set for Dec. 21 at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary, 3801 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, California 90305.