Who is Onetta Harris?

We continue on with our celebration of Women’s History Month; today profiling Onetta Harris.

[NOTE: The following profile was drawn mainly from a letter sent to the Menlo Park Council, in September 2019, by former MPHA president, Jim Lewis.}


Who is Onetta Harris?

Many people may recognize the name, Onetta Harris, but how many understand the very important role she played in Menlo Park’s evolution?Born in Texas on January 1, 1925, Ms. Harris moved to California and Menlo in 1952, specifically the Belle Haven neighborhood. In the thirty years following her arrival and up until her death in 1982, at the age of 57, she served as voice and catalyst for positive change in both Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

Onetta was a community volunteer and activist. She had a special interest in the Belle Haven Summer Teen Program, was a member of the Belle Haven Advisory Board, and, if that wasn't enough, she found time serve as Chair of the Neighborhood Housing Service, a housing rehabilitation agency. In addition, she helped found and served on the Board of the Charles Drew Medical-Dental Center. Her efforts resulted in an abundance of programs that tangibly improved and enhanced the quality of life, health, and well-being of countless thousands of individuals in our city.

In July 1983, in recognition of Onetta’s contributions, the Menlo Park City Council unanimously voted to rename the Belle Haven Community Center the ‘Onetta Harris Community Center.’ At the official dedication later that year, Aaron Johnson, Director of the Center at the time, stated, "Mrs. Harris was always doing something. There was no job too large or small to make this community better."

Onetta Harris continues to serve as an inspiration to all those dedicated to community service.

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