Tennessee trailblazer, longtime lawmaker Lois DeBerry remembered - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee trailblazer, longtime lawmaker Lois DeBerry remembered by Mid-South

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(WMC-TV) - Hundreds of family members and friends filled First Baptist Church on Broad Avenue Saturday to remember a Tennessee trailblazer, humanitarian, and civil rights activist. Click here to watch the memorial service.

City leaders say Tenn. Representative Lois DeBerry was unquestionably a "woman of the people" who never lost the common touch. At age 68, DeBerry will be remembered as an advocate for the less fortunate.

The longtime lawmaker had been battling pancreatic cancer for nearly five years before she died last Sunday.

"Coming in as a new governor, Lois quickly became one of my favorite people on Capitol Hill because of her wit, charm and dedication to her constituents. Lois was a history maker, a wonderful woman, a great legislator, and a true friend. I will miss her," said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

A Memphis native, DeBerry graduated from Hamilton High School and LeMoyne-Owen College. She was the first African-American female elected to the State Legislature from Memphis and Shelby County in 1972.

She was also the first female speaker pro tem of the house and the only African-American to serve in that capacity to date.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker says her legacy will be remembered in Memphis and across the 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," he said.

Many people gave emotional speeches about DeBerry's life and work during the legacy service Saturday, including Haslam, Memphis mayor A C Wharton, and former vice president Al Gore.

"The essence of Lois I would like to speak about is her character ... her joy ... her dedication ... her constant determination and her commitment to make her city, her country, her world a better place," said Gore.

Former colleagues said during DeBerry's battle of cancer, she still came to work with a smile.

"She taught us how to live, she taught us how to die. Tennessee has lost a political icon," said speaker of Tennessee House Beth Harwell.

Lois DeBerry leaves behind a husband and son.

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