Funeral held for state’s first black female Republican mayor

May 8, 2012 in News, Obituaries

Yvonne Brown

TCHULA – Funeral services were held Saturday for Mississippi’s first black Republican female mayor, Yvonne Rayford Brown. Brown, 59, died of cancer on Monday, April 23, at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Columbus.

The funeral began at 10 a.m. May 5, at New Jerusalem Church in Jackson.

Brown is survived by her daughters, Nichole Barnett and Aliya Barnett; her mother, Hilda Rayford, and sisters, LaVonne “Pye” Rayford Chestang and Gail Rayford Ambeau.

Brown served two terms as the mayor of Tchula – from 2001 to 2009, and she was the Republican nominee for Congress in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District in 2006, losing to Democratic incumbent Bennie Thompson.

Brown was also a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Brown’s sister, LaVonne, said Brown learned she had cancer in February 2011, and until that time was the Lowndes County director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, a post she’d held since 2009.

Brown was born in Chicago on Sept. 8, 1952 and grew up in Toledo, Ohio.

Her parents, Hilda and Bennie Rayford, were both educators in the Toledo Public School System.

According to the Toledo Blade, Brown graduated from Rogers High School in 1970. Her parents moved back to their native Mississippi in the late 1980s, where Brown’s father, switched his political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, which Brown strongly identified with.

Prior to her political career, Brown reportedly worked for several local businesses in Mississippi, and she was a member of the Grace Community Church in Tchula which she co-founded with her former husband, Robert Brown.

During her administration, Brown made great strides for the town of Tchula by securing federal funding for water, sewer, and street construction. The city also built a municipal building and created or improved recreational facilities.

Her sister said Brown’s position as a black female Republican made her a stand-out at a time when it was sorely needed.

“In the state of Mississippi, that was a big to-do,” LaVonne told the Clarion-Ledger. “She was a poster child for the party [and] they needed that very much. She was intelligent [and] a very good communicator.”