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Black Trailblazer Freezes to Death… Alone.

The sad story of Juanita Goggins, former State Congresswoman and trailblazer.

Once-revered SC lawmaker freezes to death alone

Juanita Goggins is seen in a 1974 AP file photo in Rock Hill, S.C. Goggins was the first black woman elected to the the South Carolina Legislature in 1974, and was hailed as a trailblazer at the time. Three decades later, Goggins died alone and freezing in the home she rented for 16 years, just four miles from the gleaming Statehouse dome.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When Juanita Goggins became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1974, she was hailed as a trailblazer and twice visited the president at the White House.

Three decades later, she froze to death at age 75, a solitary figure living in a rented house four miles from the gleaming Statehouse dome.

Goggins, whose achievements included key legislation on school funding, kindergarten and class size, had become increasingly reclusive. She spent her final years turning down help from neighbors who knew little of her history-making past. Her body was not discovered for more than a week.

Those neighbors, as well as former colleagues and relatives, are now left wondering whether they could have done more to help.

“I’m very saddened. People like her you want to see live forever. She had quite a gift for helping others,” said state Sen. John Land, a fellow Democrat who was first elected to the House the same year as Goggins.

Goggins, the youngest of 10 children, grew up the daughter of a sharecropper in rural Anderson County, about 130 miles northwest of the capital. She was the only sibling to earn a four-year college degree. Her bachelor’s in home economics from then-all-black South Carolina State College was followed by a master’s degree.

She taught in the state’s segregated schools, married a dentist and got into politics. In 1972, she became the first black woman to represent South Carolina as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Two years later, she became the first black woman appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2010 in Black History

 

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