Posted July 30, 2013
TN State Representative Lois DeBerry Now Belongs to History
State Rep. Lois DeBerry
By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Sometimes you make history without trying. This was the case of Tennessee State Rep. Lois DeBerry who became the second Black woman to serve in the General Assembly, beginning in 1972, and later served as the first African American woman pro tempore of the State House of Representatives.
State Rep. DeBerry’s long tenure came to an end Sunday, July 28, 2013 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, at age 68. Those of us who had followed her career and heard her many inspirational speeches espousing civil rights will miss her energy and dedication to a city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain. She took her seat just four years after his assassination which rocked the nation and practically derailed a city. And she was only 23 years old when she stepped into the history books.
The State Representative will be laid to rest at historic Elmwood Cemetery in her hometown of Memphis, TN. at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 3. Following graveyard services, a memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church Broad, located at 2835 Broad Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112.
Among her other numerous historical contributions to Black History and Tennessee history are: Founder and chairperson of the Annual Legislative Retreat of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, first African American woman elected to House of Representatives from city of Memphis, and the first female chairperson of the Shelby County Delegation.
"Representative DeBerry served Tennessee's General Assembly with honor and distinction,” said Shelby County Mayor H. Luttrell, Jr. “She was a true champion of civil rights and fought to ensure the needs of all citizens were represented during her decades of service in Nashville. Representative DeBerry had a determined spirit that not only led to a more effective state government but inspired those of us at the local level as well. All of us at Shelby County Government share in the sorrow of her passing."
U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) released the following: “Lois DeBerry will be remembered as a tireless advocate for her community, and as one of the longest-serving women lawmakers in the nation and the first African American female speaker pro tempore in the House, Lois’ legacy will be remembered in Memphis and across our state for generations to come. I appreciate her many years of public service and her friendship and kindness. My heart goes out to her family during this difficult time.”
Her legislative accomplishments included: Member of House Education Committee, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee.
A strong advocate of prison reform and education, she served as chairman of the Special Committee to Study Integration of Ex-Offenders into Mainstream of Society, the Governor's Juvenile Justice Reform Commission and on the House Committee to Study School Safety Issues.
She also served on the Governor's Minority Business Development Advisory Committee while relentlessly fighting for the growth of minority-owned and Black-owned businesses.
Rep. DeBerry graduated from HBCU LeMoyne-Owen College (Memphis) and Hamilton High School. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, NAACP, P.U.S.H., and Memphis LINKS among many other civic organizations.
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