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This story just strikes me as sad, so very sad, and I want to recognize this trailblazing woman.

Juanita Goggins was the first black woman elected to the South Carolina General Assembly, back in 1974.

It's unclear exactly when she died, because she was alone in her home.

She apparently died of hypothermia, and her body was found a couple of weeks after she had died.

A story in The State newspaper has the details.

The daughter of a sharecropper, she was the youngest of 10 children. She was the only of her siblings to earn a college degree, eventually getting a Master's Degree.

In 1972 she represented her state at the Democratic National Convention, and in 1974 was elected to the South Carolina House, beating the white male incumbent.

Now, think about that! South Carolina in '74, the wounds of the Civil Rights era still undoubtedly raw. Taking on the white male establishment and winning.

That must have been amazing.

According to The State:

"I am going to Columbia to be a legislator, not just a black spot in the House chambers," she told The Associated Press in 1974....

She sat on the powerful House budget-writing committee and was responsible for funding sickle-cell anemia testing in county health departments.

The former teacher also helped pass the 1977 law that is still the basis for education funding in the state.

Of course, I never met her. Never even heard of her until tonight. I'm not even from South Carolina.

But we have to recognize her, to remember what she did and what she stood for.

And with all that, to die alone, not noticed for weeks. Possible dementia, according to The State, as she was found dressed in layers of clothes but her heat was working in a cold snap.

I have only been able to find one contemporary newspaper article about her, from the Spartanburg Herald of Dec. 31, 1974. (You might have to scroll around, but the story is on pg. 13 of this linked file.)

Her online obituary is found here.

RIP, Ms. Goggins. You were part of a Democratic surge in 1974, and I'm sure there are many in South Carolina who are better off today because of your efforts more than 35 years ago.

Update:

Logging back on this morning after leaving things for sleep last night. I'm really touched by the comments here. I think Ms. Goggins' death has made a lot of us do some soul-searching. I know she's done that for me.

Originally posted to Senor Unoball on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:00 PM PST.

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