Colleagues remember Minerva Johnican, political pioneer - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Colleagues remember Minerva Johnican, political pioneer

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(WMC-TV) - The Bluff City is saying goodbye to a social and political trailblazer who led the way for women and black people in Memphis.

Tennessee Representative G.A. Hardaway said Minerva Johnican kicked open doors that no one else dared to go through.

"She was always bubbling and full of energy and life, and her spirit was so large and overwhelming you could get caught up in it," Hardaway said. "You could get caught up in Minerva."

Lung cancer took her life Friday. She was 74.

"I was pretty sad, because she's been a friend of mine for my entire political life," said longtime friend Congressman Steve Cohen.

Johnican was the first woman elected to the Shelby County Quarterly Court, now the County Commission. That is where Johnican and Cohen tag-teamed on big issues, like building The MED when others wanted a smaller hospital.

"Minerva reminded me I had said, 'If we stick together and stay out of their coalition, they couldn't get the votes for the smaller hospital,'" said Cohen.

It worked. In addition to running Cohen's first Congressional campaign, Hardaway said Johnican is one reason he ran for office.

"I was indecisive about running for office, she was making me understand in her way," said Hardaway.

The 18-year Memphis school teacher was the first female and black Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk who was known for automating the clerk's office.

She crossed racial lines to become the first black elected at large to the Memphis City Council.

"She had the courage to cross gender lines, cross ethnic lines and she crossed party lines," said Hardaway.

Johnican graduated from Hamilton Elementary, Hamilton High and Tennessee State.

"She was strong with women, white and black, and was a leader," said Cohen.

Minerva Johnican's home going service will be held at M.J. Edwards Funeral Home Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Her funeral is Saturday at Parkway Garden Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m.

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