Senator Thelma Harper, the first African-American woman to serve in the State Senate, announced exclusively to NewsChannel 5 that she is stepping down.
Harper entered the Senate in 1991, winning election in Nashville's 19th Senate District. She also became the first woman to preside over the Senate and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. She's also the longest running woman to hold such a position.
The 77-year-old Davidson County native was also behind the proposal to rename part of 8th Avenue for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. She's known for her focus on youth, the elderly and women's rights during her 27 year career in the state senate. Before she became a senator, she was a Nashville metro council member for eight years.
"It's been an honor for me to serve," said Harper. "For all of the years that I've been here, I've enjoyed it. I really have. I've a made a difference."
Senator Harper plans to continue serving the community, through visiting with the elderly and incarcerated young women.
“Tennessee is losing one of its most experienced and likable public servants with the retirement of Senator Harper," said governor Bill Haslam. "I will miss her friendship, her insight and her wonderful sense of humor.”
She will continue to hold her position until her replacement takes the seat in January of 2019.