Alfred W. Harris introduced the bill that chartered Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) during his time in the House of Delegates (1881–1888). Born enslaved in Fairfax County, during the(1861–1865) his family moved to Alexandria, where he attended a school operated by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands and later the city’s first segregated . He won a seat on the Alexandria common council as a twenty-year-old and became a lawyer. Harris relocated in Petersburg and in 1881 term in the House of Delegates, representing Dinwiddie County. He played key roles in Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute’s first years, serving as its de facto treasurer and the first secretary of the board of visitors. Harris strongly supported the and later leader , even backing his candidate in the 1888 congressional election against . After leaving the House of Delegates, Harris served as a Newport News specials customs inspector and a Petersburg census enumerator. He resigned his post after being arrested and exonerated twice on charges of theft. Following a stroke, Harris died in his Petersburg home in 1920.