By Barney Blakeney
For the past several months the S.C. Democratic Party regularly has spotlighted members serving in the state legislature. Across the state there are African American members of the legislature unknown to many constituents. Here we share some of those spotlighted members.
Rep John R. King is chairman of the 39-member S.C. Legislative Black Caucus which consists of 26 members of the House of Representatives and 13 members of the Senate. King represents House Dist. 49, York County. A graduate of Morehouse College and Charlotte School of Law, King is funeral director at Christopher King’s Funeral Home. Having served on both the Chester City and Chester County councils, King was elected to the House in 2009. He currently serves on the Ethics and Judiciary Committees.
Rep. Jerry Govan, House Dist. 95, of Orangeburg is chairman-elect of the SCLBC and has served in the House since his election in 1992. A U.S. armed forces veteran, Govan graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in 1980, and served as a personnel specialist for the Navy. The Orangeburg native earned Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Education degrees from South Carolina State University. He is Orangeburg County Attendance Supervisor for Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five.
Govan serves on the House Education & Public Works Committee, State House Committee, House Rules Committee, House Medical, Military and Municipal Affairs Committee and House Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Karl Allen serves Senate Dist. 7 in Greenville County. The Greenville native earned an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina. He previously served in the House, starting in 2001 before being elected to the Senate in 2013. As an attorney, Allen has distinguished himself as a personal injury lawyer. In the Senate, Allen serves as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As part of his efforts to enact criminal justice reform in the state, in 2015 Allen introduced the “Second Chance Act” which centers on providing the resources and employment opportunities necessary to allow individuals who were convicted of petty crimes years ago to move on with their lives.
In February the legislative spotlight series posthumously highlighted former Rep. Juanita Goggins of Rock Hill, elected as the first African American woman to serve in the general assembly in 1974. She served three terms until 1980. She died at age 75 in 2010.
A classroom teacher in York, Chester, and Fairfield Counties before entering politics, Goggins was a trailblazer. Throughout her career in the legislature Goggins secured funding for county health officials to test for sickle-cell anemia as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, she worked to improve the student-teacher ratio in classrooms across the state, and championed the state’s first kindergarten bill. A graduate of South Carolina State College, Goggins was appointed by President Jimmie Carter to serve on the United States Civil Rights Commission.
Senator Marlon Kimpson, a graduate of Morehouse University and the University Of South Carolina School Of Law first was elected to the Senate in 2013 representing Dist. 42 in Charleston and Dorchester Counties. An attorney at Motley Rice in Charleston, Kimpson has served as the first vice chair of the state Democratic Party and as the chairman of the State Elections Commission under Governor Jim Hodges.
A longtime member of the South Carolina Association for Justice, Kimpson recently was awarded the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Soaring Eagle Award from the American Association for Justice. The AAJ Minority Caucus presents this award annually to an attorney who, despite the challenges of his or her own journey, pursues excellence and has made outstanding efforts and contributions to the legal profession in paving the way for others. Kimpson has made a point to always lead on issues that are important to him, including gun reform, minority business, and mental health.
Sen. Mia McLeod represents Richland County Senate Dist. 22. Elected in 2017 she’s often an outspoken member of the general assembly. Prior to her service in the legislature, McLeod served on the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.
Previously serving in the House from 2011 to 2016, McLeod criticizes what she describes as the “old guard” of South Carolina politics.
The Bennettsville native and University of South Carolina graduate in 1997 when South Carolina was number one in the nation for domestic violence homicides, successfully launched a statewide initiative that developed multidisciplinary protocols, curricula and training for law enforcement, solicitors and judges when investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating cases of violence against women. McLeod was later appointed Director of the State Office of Victim Assistance (SOVA) by Governor Jim Hodges and was recognized by the National Crime Victim Compensation Program for creating satellite offices in rural, underserved S.C. counties to help broaden services, outreach and access to crime victims.
Senator Floyd Nicholson of Greenwood was first elected to the Senate in 2008 to represent Dist. 10 which covers Abbeville, Greenwood, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. Nicholson was elected to the Greenwood City Council in 1982, on which he served until his election as mayor in 1994. He spent more than 20 years working directly in city government in his hometown and brings that expertise, along with his deep background in education from his time in the classroom, to the Senate.
A retired educator, in 1972 Nicholson received a Bachelor of Science Degree from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. He’s taken on a number of leadership roles during his time in government; serving on Jim Rex’s transition team after Rex was elected as the Superintendent of Education, as the chairman of the Upper Savannah Council of Governments from 1990-1992, and as the president of the South Carolina Municipal Association in 2001.
Nicholson served as mayor of Greenwood from 1994 until his election to the Senate in 2008. Currently Nicholson serves on a number of committees in the Senate, including Education, Rules, Corrections and Penology, Finance, Invitations, and Medical Affairs.
Rep. Powers Norrell has served in the House since 2012, representing the southern part of Lancaster County, and is currently a member of the Judiciary and Legislative Oversight Committees. Norrell is an attorney who brings her knowledge of law into politics. In addition to 13 years of experience practicing law for the town of Kershaw and the city of Lancaster, she graduated with honors from both Furman University and the University Of South Carolina School Of Law.
Inside the State House, Norrell has been a vocal advocate for public education, healthcare and infrastructure improvements, and medical marijuana. She also served as vice chairwoman of Palmetto Citizens against Sexual Assault for four years and was vice chair of the USC School of Law’s alumni board. In 2016, Norrell delivered the Democratic response to the State of the State address, emphasizing the need for the state to improve its healthcare, education, and transportation.