The family of Tennessee State Rep. Lois M. DeBerry and the public that she served will say goodbye to her during services set for Saturday, Aug. 3.
Rep. DeBerry – the first female Speaker Pro-Tempore and the second African-American to hold that position – died Sunday afternoon at Methodist Hospital South after a bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 68.
The family of Rep. Lois M. DeBerry, known to many as "Lady D," announced the following service arrangements:
Family Graveside Service:
• Saturday, Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. at Elmwood Historic Cemetery; Phone: 901-774-3212.
• Saturday, Aug. 3 at noon at First Baptist Church-Broad, 2835 Broad Ave.
In memoriam donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the following:
• Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, www.pancan.org
• Lois M. DeBerry Memorial Fund, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, P.O. Box 179, Madison, AL 35758
• Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in memory of Lois M. DeBerry, 1702 Silver Street, Memphis, TN 38106
V.H. Bins and Son Mid-South Funeral Home (901-946-2061) has charge.
Accolades for Rep. DeBerry, who grew up in Memphis and graduated from Hamilton High School and LeMoyne-Owen College, continue to poor in from friends, colleagues, sometime-adversaries and more. The New York Times recognized her passing in a recent edition.
TaJuan Scott Stout Mitchell
TaJuan Scott Stout Mitchell, Gales Jones Carson and Rep. DeBerry shared myriad interests.
"Almost every night 'The Good Wife' was on we were glued to the television for one hour. Later, we added 'Scandal' to our list," said Mitchell. "We would get on a three-way conference call to talk about the show and sometimes, on text messages. We could be in three homes or three parts of the country, we met by phone or text to talk about our shows. Just women having fun being 'girls.'"
On one show, Mitchell said, "Alicia asks Peter to make a promise...one that we doubted he could keep. We wanted Alicia yp dump Peter and go with Will. Gale said, 'Well Wise One, how could she even think about trusting him or taking him back?' Lois, laughed because we admired Alicia and couldn't believe this move. Then, she replied, 'Because tough times never outlast strong women.' Now, she said a mouthful and got nothing but, 'Amens.'
"Lady DeBerry," said Mitchell, was "a wife, mother of one son and Tish Towns, as her very own daughter. She was a friend to many, a champion for women in leadership, and a loyal and committed servant for this community."
Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators
Rep. Larry Miller, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, said the group mourns and celebrates the legacy of "our friend, our mentor, our leader, and our treasured colleague."
Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry was a trailblazer in organizing black state legislators in Tennessee and the United States. In 1976, she joined with a handful of other black female legislators to push for the formation of an official group of Black State Legislators. NBCSL was born in Nashville in 1977.
"Rep. DeBerry served as President of NBCSL from 1994 to 1999, where she helped to form and strengthen coalition partnerships in order to expand the reach and influence of the organization," said Miller. "In addition, Rep. DeBerry pushed for a focus on international policy in Africa and elsewhere around the world."
In 2000, Rep. DeBerry seconded the nomination of Vice President Al Gore to be the Democratic Nominee for President," he said, noting her national reach.
As Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus, Rep. DeBerry pioneered the annual legislative retreat, which brought thousands of citizens and legislative officials from across the state together to improve the delivery of government services, said Miller. "This work had a dramatic impact on education, children's services, elderly care, health care, economic development and many other facets of service for the people of Tennessee."
The members of the Tennessee Black Caucus are: Sen. Ophelia Ford, Sen. Thelma Harper, Sen. Reggie Tate, Rep. Joe Armstrong, Rep. Karen Camper, Rep. Barbara Cooper, Rep. John Deberry, Rep. JoAnne Favors, Rep. Brenda Gilmore, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, Rep. Harold M. Love Jr., Rep. Larry Miller, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Rep. Johnny Shaw, Rep. Joe Towns Jr. and Rep. Johnnie Turner
"Tennessee owes Lois DeBerry a debt of gratitude for her immeasurable contributions to improving the health, welfare, and well-being of the people of our state," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. "Lois was an irreplaceable member of our caucus and she will always have a place in our hearts and memories."
In May of 2011, the legislature passed House Joint Resolution 516, sponsored by Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, which honored Rep. DeBerry with the title of Speaker Pro Tempore Emeritus. In accepting the honor of the position, DeBerry told her colleagues that, "I've never done anything to get a return, every decision that I've tried to make came from my heart."
The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL-Women) hailed Rep. DeBerry as one of its "most influential and inspirational leaders." The non-profit, non-partisan group was organized to increase and promote the presence of black women in government. It is composed primarily of current and former black women legislators, in addition to a number of appointed officials.
" Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Representative Lois DeBerry, said NOBEL National President, Senator Sharon Weston Broome of Louisiana.
"Representative DeBerry was a friend, and mentor to many of the women of NOBEL and will be greatly missed. We would also like to offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends. Be comforted in knowing that her spirit and valor will live on in each of us as we continue to be a global voice for the voiceless."