Tennessee representative Lois DeBerry was one of the longest-serving women lawmakers in the nation. She was the first black woman elected to the General Assembly from Shelby County and the second throughout the state of Tennessee. The African American Congresswoman was elected in 1972 and was the first woman speaker pro tempore in the House of Representatives. Her colleagues dubbed her Speaker Emeritus. DeBerry was re-elected in 20 consecutive elections. She worked as Dean of the Shelby County legislative.
Louis DeBerry is a Memphis native and a teaching graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College. She entered politics at age 27 and continued to run for office. She represented the younger demographic of voters, even arriving at the 1973 legislative session with an Afro hairstyle.
Representative DeBerry’s proposals worked on behalf of the poor, the young and the old. She worked to keep students out of debt by restricting credit card companies from soliciting on college and university campuses. Rep. DeBerry’s dedication to Memphis ran deep. In 1994, she turned down federal appointment from President Clinton, citing her unfinished work in the state of Tennessee.
Louis DeBerry passed away on Sunday, July 28, 2013 from pancreatic cancer. Though she was in chemotherapy and treatments for her illness, DeBerry continued to serve in the Legislature.