A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk University, Janie is the first African-American female to graduate from Vanderbilt University Law School. In the early years of her career, she served as an attorney for several federal government agencies, including the General Accountability Office, the Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency and as a trial attorney for the Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor.
Eventually she transitioned into the private sector serving as in-house counsel specializing in employee benefits law at major financial services institutions including Regions Bank and Bank of America . While serving as Trust Counsel for U.S. Bancorp in St. Louis, she was appointed in 1998 by the U.S. Secretary of Labor to a four-year term on the Advisory Council on Employee Benefit Plans to represent the employee sector of the employee benefits industry.
Often the first woman of color through the doors of these institutions, Janie made it her mission to hold doors open for the next generation of professional women and people of color. In addition to mentoring countless young professionals, she continued her lifelong affiliation with and support of the YWCA – an organization dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women.
Having benefited from YWCA programs growing up in the segregated South, she paid it forward in numerous volunteer positions with the organization – as a board member of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee while serving as CABLE president in 1989; board president of the YWCA of Metropolitan St. Louis; board president of the YWCA of Greater Baltimore and a board member of the YWCA of the U.S.A.. She currently serves on the board of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee.
Janie served on Vanderbilt Law School’s Board of Advisors from 1997-2000. She is also a member of the Oak Leaf Society which recognizes donor loyalty to the school. She was honored as the Law School’s first African-American female graduate by the Black Law Students Association in 2015. She received the Law School’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017. Janie was honored by her undergraduate alma mater as a Fisk Woman of Prominence in 2016.
Janie was married to Vander E. Harris, Sr., a native of Nashville and a Fisk graduate, who passed away in 2004. They have two sons, Vander, Jr. and Jason and four grandchildren.