Our VoiceNews & Politics

Trailblazer of Civil Rights Dies Forgotten

Imagine 2050 Staff • Mar 14, 2010

Juanita_Willmon-GogginsA sad reminder of how easily the individuals who inspired generations and paved the way for expanded freedom slip into obscurity. Tragically ironic that this comes amid a vicious backslide on the civil rights won by individuals like Juanita Goggins.

The New York Times’ Robbie Brown wrote:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Neighbors were chagrined last week when the police here found the body of a 75-year-old woman who had frozen to death, alone in her house, during unexpectedly frigid weather. Last year, part of Highway 5 in Rock Hill, S.C., was renamed for her.

But they were shocked this week when they learned that the woman, Juanita W. Goggins, had been a civil rights trailblazer who in 1974 became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina legislature.

Now residents of this normally neighborly Southern capital say they are feeling regretful, and slightly guilty, for allowing one of its most revered figures to disappear into a sleepy ranch house with little company. Possibly mentally ill, living without running water or heat, Ms. Goggins is believed to have died on Feb. 20 — when temperatures dropped below freezing — but her body was not discovered for 11 days.

Several neighbors in her elderly, mostly black community in downtown Columbia said they had learned the full scope of Ms. Goggins’s accomplishments only from her obituaries. At the peak of her political career, in the 1970s, she twice visited President Jimmy Carter at the White House and was the first black woman appointed to the United States Civil Rights Commission.

In the legislature, where she represented Rock Hill, on the northern border of the state, for three terms in the 1970s, Ms. Goggins, a Democrat, helped pass key legislation for improving elementary school education and public health. Last year, a stretch of Highway 5 was renamed in her honor.

To read more about Juanita Goggins, click here. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/us/12frozen.html

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