NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville and the state of Tennessee continue to mourn the death of former Senator Thelma Harper.
Her body lies in state at the Historic Metro Courthouse on Tuesday until 2 p.m. On Wednesday, her body will move to the State Capitol before a celebration of life on Thursday at her alma mater Tennessee State University.
Mayor John Cooper spoke, remembering Harper, "the woman who wore many hats," for her incredible work ethic and passion for the community. He was joined by a number of former and current council members.
A beautiful moment this morning as council and @JohnCooper4Nash remember the “woman who wore many hats.”— Levi Ismail (@LeviAIsmail) May 4, 2021
They say Sen. Thelma Harper was a woman of incredible work ethic who cared about the people she served and served with.@NC5 pic.twitter.com/lpSp3cD1Ne
Harper passed away in late April at the age of 80. She was the first African American woman to serve in the Tennessee State Senate and the longest-serving female state senator in Tennessee history.
Activist Justin Jones was among the community members who stopped by to pay respects to Harper. Earlier in the morning, Jones testified at the Capitol against a controversial bill that would have increased the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for protesters obstructing a highway. The bill did not pass.
While testifying, Jones said if there was a law like this in the 80s, people like Harper would have been a felon. During her time on Metro Council, Harper was arrested after she stood in the way of a dump truck while protesting in the Bordeaux area.
Jones spoke with NewsChannel 5 on the impact the former senator had to the community, and what she means to him.