By Othor Cain,
First elected to office in 1985, District 69 Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke was the first black woman in the state Legislature. At the time of her election, Clarke was a co-chair of a neighborhood committee when some of her neighbors had the bright idea that she should run for office.
“At first, the plan was to run for Jackson City Council,” Clarke said. “Once I made up my mind to do it, one of my neighbors informed me that the committee had changed its mind and decided that I should run for the Mississippi House of Representatives instead.
Clarke, who is on the ballot for re-election in August, remembers some of the most trying moments at the Capitol, including when she was first elected and there were separate restrooms for black and white elected officials. “I remember a white female being given a key to a private restroom outside the chamber and I was not…instead I was pointed to a restroom further away than my white counterparts,” she remembers vividly.
During those times, male representatives had a bathroom in the House chamber.
Clarke told the news media what had happened – and declined the bathroom key that was, inevitably, offered to her the next day.
Clarke says she has otherwise enjoyed her three decades in the House. She has worked hard on education and public health bills, and tries to improve the futures of as many young people as possible.
She also wants to see more women support each other in political endeavors.
“We had three highly qualified women run for governor before, and they didn’t even make the runoff,” she said. “That was embarrassing. (Robert Gray, who won the Democratic primary) was a truck driver, versus a lawyer and a doctor.”
Clarke remains committed to serve and looks forward to another four years in office.