Kattie Portis was a trailblazing Black Woman who used her life’s trials and downfalls as a testament in fortitude and architected a roadmap for life's redemption. This propelled her from the rural county of Alabama to a lifetime of service and advocacy across the nation. Kattie was born on October 28, 1942 in Yantley, Alabama to the late Ruby Harmon. Kattie was one of nine children and completed her high school education. Kattie accepted Christ at a young age and while a child she joined Pine Grove Baptist Church in Kinterbish, Alabama. Kattie relocated to Akron, Ohio with her late husband Jessie James Portis and later relocated to Boston Massachusetts in 1961. She joined Morning Star Baptist Church where she remained a faithful and engaged member for many decades. In 1992, Kattie married the late Ronald Budd.
Kattie H. Portis, 77, was called to be with our father after a courageous battle with cancer on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at home surrounded by her daughter, son, and grandchildren.
Kattie’s early career inroads spanned across several fields that included experiences in the hospitality field, a nanny and drug rehabilitation Counselor at Conseillo House Treatment Center. After she successfully achieved sobriety in the Project Turnabout Substance Abuse Treatment Program, she overcame a life altering addiction issue that guided her life’s forward direction to helping others achieve the same sobriety that save her life and the lives of her children. In 1971 while working at Conseillo House Treatment Center, Kattie was recruited and committed to an initiative to help substance abusing females with children stay together. She knew from her own struggles of being separated from her children during her road to recovery, the importance of keeping families together which serves as a catalyst of support for a successful recovery. This project inspired Kattie to create Women Inc. in 1972, a treatment program dedicated to providing substance abuse recovery services to women struggling with addiction. This service also provided wrap-around clinical and life supports to the women’s children to support the healthy growth and development for them. The program was the first dual-tract residential substance abuse program for women and children in the country. President and Founder, Kattie’s philosophy was simple, “empower women, keep families together and save lives.” The program expanded to childcare and adult education to women in in the community.
In 1977, while directing Women’s Inc., Kattie earned her Bachelor of Science from Franconia College in New Hampshire. In 1979, she earned her Master of Social Work from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1986, she started Women AIDS Risk Network (WARN), a project aimed at curbing the AIDS epidemic among women and children. In 1990, Kattie testified before the United States Congress regarding the many affect’s drug/substance abuse has on women with children. In 1992, Kattie left Women’s Inc. to devote more time working on the rising AIDS epidemic in Boston and around the country. This led her to accept a leadership position at New England Medical Center playing an integral role in projects that focused on Women with AIDS population. In 1997, while working at New England Medical Center, she was recruited to join the Mayor Menino Administration as the first Drug Czar for the city of Boston, working as the Senior Advisor. She established a professional bond with Mayor Menino advising him and other Cabinet Chairs (BPD, BFD and Public Health Commissioner) as well as, the city at large on Substance Abuse issues and the importance of recovery resources, mandating new policies. Kattie represented the city of Boston across the world on the issue of drugs and the need for recovery resources. In addition to her professional work, Kattie was civically engaged where she was a Democratic Delegate for the Hyde Park district, volunteered her time at her church where she ran weekly substance abuse recovery groups and individual recovery counseling, while also finding time to greet incoming students on the first day of school at the Chittick Elementary School. Kattie was a devoted mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, and auntie to so many. She leaves to cherish her memories six children; Raymond (Debra Cooley) Harmon of Cuba, AL; Alice (late Roy) Portis-Patterson of Racine, WI; E. James (Shelia) Portis of-Parkland, FL; Torris Portis of Boston, MA, Luther (Sophia) Portis of Boston, MA and Dawn (Shawn) Webb of Hype Park, MA, and special grandson, Darrel Portis-Leah of Hype Park, MA; (22) grandchildren, (22) great grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews, two special cousins Catina Kendrick and Jerome Kendrick, and five God children-Linda Stokes, Meekah Scott, John Scott, Sulamein Scott and Anthony Scott; two brothers, Arthur (Zenoria) Harmon of Racine, WI and Robert (Sealeaner ) Harmon of Oxford, MS; and one sister, Mary Thomas of Mobile, AL. She was preceded in death by her mother: Ruby Harmon, husbands Jessie Portis and Ronald Budd, sisters Creola Bryant and Murline Turner and three brothers James Foster, Bobby Harmon and Willie James Harmon, and granddaughter Deangela Bell.