Thelma Harper, ‘Transformative’ Tennessee Legislator, Dies at 80

Thelma Harper, a Democrat that ended up being the very first African-American lady chosen to Tennessee’s State Senate, passed away on Thursday. She was 80.

The fatality was validated by her child, Linda Harper. She did not state where her mom passed away or what the reason was.

Ms. Harper went into the Senate in 1989 and also was the state’s longest-serving women legislator by the time she retired, in 2018.

“Whether she was fighting landfills for her neighbors, serving a community organization or leading a hearing in the legislature, Thelma Harper was a strong voice for her community, for justice and our most vulnerable children,” the State Senate’s Democratic Caucus stated in a declaration.

Ms. Harper was the very first chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus. In the mid-2000s she effectively pressed to have a stretch of U.S. Highway 41 in Nashville relabelled in honor of the civil liberties hero Rosa Parks.

She additionally had a nationwide visibility. In 2000 she presented Vice President Al Gore, the governmental candidate, at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York in a speech called “The Al Gore I Know,” in which she defined his time as a chosen authorities in Tennessee.

“Like many families,” she said in the speech, “when we called upon Al Gore, he always listened to our voices. He always responded to our needs. And he always fought on our side.”

In 2008, she was a leader in Hillary Clinton’s governmental project in Tennessee.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, a Republican, called Ms. Harper a “transformative public figure,” “a fierce advocate for her constituents and the city of Nashville” and also a good example. In a homage on Twitter, he referred to her desire for appealing hats.

“Today the legendary Thelma Harper traded in her signature hat for a halo,” he composed.

Thelma Harper was born upon Dec. 2, 1940, in Brentwood, Tenn., simply southern of Nashville. She gained a bachelor’s level in company management and also accountancy at Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1978. Before signing up with the State Senate, she offered for 8 years on Nashville’s Metro Council. Her spouse, Paul, passed away in 2018.

That very same year, when she was asked why she was retiring, she informed The Tennessean that it was time for the future generation of leaders to take control of, including, “Look, man, I’ve been here forever.”

The New York Times added coverage.