Jackson lawmaker, first Black woman elected to MS Legislature, will not seek reelection
The first Black woman elected to the Mississippi Legislature announced Tuesday that she will not be seeking reelection in November.
Democratic Rep. Alyce Clarke, 83, has represented Jackson in the Mississippi House of Representatives for 38 years, serving under seven governors and four speakers of the house.
On Tuesday evening, she came up to the dais just as she has many times in her career, but this time was different. Clarke told her fellow representatives that she plans to retire, to which she received a standing ovation from the chamber.
"I've been here 37 years and 11-and-a-half months, and there have been a lot of times that I've felt good about the things that we did and a lot of times that I did not, but I just want to thank you for what you've done and what you will do," Clarke said. "All I'm going to ask is, just do what's in the best interest of your constituents because that's all I've been doing since I've been here."
Clarke was a longtime advocate for the creation of a state lottery, which was named for her when it passed in 2018, but she wants her legacy to go beyond that.
"Don't think of me just as the lottery lady. Don't think of me just at the Born Free lady. Think of me as somebody who tried to help somebody along the way," Clarke said.
When Clarke first took office in 1985, the state capitol was a very different place.
"Ladies, I want you all to know that before I got here, there was no ladies room for us. In addition to the other things, I got us a bathroom," Clarke said to applause.
Clarke closed her remarks with a call to whoever sits in her seat next.
"It is my hope and prayer that whoever replaces me will work for the community, for the county and not just themselves," Clarke said. "Thank you again, and God bless each of you."
Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who will also not be seeking reelection, called Clarke a "historic figure in this body."
"Let me say on behalf of the entire membership, you have served your constituents with class and dignity. You have made your people very proud. You've made the state of Mississippi very proud," Gunn said. "It is with a tinge of sadness that we see this page turn in the chapter of her life and in the chapter of the life of the Mississippi House of Representatives."
Gunn said Clarke will always be welcome in the House and thanked her for being a friend.
Also on Tuesday, Tamarra “Grace” Butler-Washington qualified as a Democrat to run for Clarke’s House District 69. A lifelong resident of house district 69, Butler-Washington said she is honored to run for the seat once held by one of her friend and mentor Rep. Clarke.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Alyce Clarke, first Black woman in MS Legislature, to retire