Pinkie Wilkerson

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Pinkie Carolyn Wilkerson

Louisiana State Representative
for District 11 (Claiborne and parts of Bienville, Lincoln, and Union parishes)
In office
January 1992 – August 1, 2000
Preceded by Kenneth Volentine
Succeeded by Rick Gallot

Born February 8, 1948
Grambling], incoln Parish, Louisiana, USA
Died August 1, 2000 (aged 52)
Bossier City, Louisiana
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Presumed divorced from John Barabin, Sr.
Children John Barabin, Jr.
Alma mater Grambling State University

Ohio University
Southern University Law Center (Baton Rouge)
Tulane University

Occupation Attorney

Pinkie Carolyn Wilkerson (February 8, 1948 – August 1, 2000) was an African American state representative from her native Grambling, a largely black communty west of Ruston, Louisiana, who served from 1992 until her death in a six-vehicle traffic accident on Interstate 20 in Bossier City, Louisiana.[1]

Wilkerson was particularly involved in the areas of health care and rural development. Her District 11 included Claiborne and portions of Bienville, Lincoln, and Union parishes. The district was especially created after the 1990 census to guarantee an African-American voter majority.[2]

Background

Wilkerson graduated from the historically black Grambling State University laboratory high school and then the university itself. She received a master’s degree from Ohio University, a research institution in Athens in southeastern Ohio, not to be confused with Ohio State University in Columbus. She then obtained an L.L.B. degree from historically black Southern University Law Center in the capital city of Baton Rouge. She then obtained an L.L.M. in advanced legal studies at Tulane University in New Orleans.[3]

From 1981 to 1984, she was an assistant professor at her alma mater, the Southern University Law School. Thereafter, she was an assistant district attorney and an assistant state attorney general. While in the legislature, she continued her law practice in Grambling, where she was active in civic affairs, having served on the Grambling Economic Development Task Force.[4]

Politics and elections

Wilkerson won her House seat on the same day that Edwin Edwards returned to the Louisiana governorship for his fourth term in a ringing general election defeat of State Representative David Duke, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Wilkerson defeated the white one-term incumbent, state Representative Kenneth Volentine of Athens in Claiborne Parish. who had led in the first nonpartisan blanket primary. Volentine polled 6,150 (46.9 percent) to Wilkerson’s 4,358 (33.2 percent). Two other candidates held the remaining 20 percent of the vote.[5] In the general election held on November 16, 1991, Wilkerson unseated Volentine, 8,590 (51.8 percent) to 7,992 (48.2 percent).[6]

In 1995, Wilkerson won a second term by defeating fellow African American Willie J. Young, 70-30 percent.[7] In that same election, her 1991 rival, Kenneth Volentine, was handily elected to the first of two terms as the Claiborne Parish sheriff of Claiborne Parish.[7] In 1999, she defeated fellow Democrat Douglas R. Sapp, 80-20 percent, in a low-turnout election.[8]

Wilkerson was an active national Democrat, having been a delegate to the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, which renominated the Clinton/Gore ticket. She was killed two weeks prior to the start of the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California. She had been scheduled to be a delegate to that convention too,[1] in which Vice President Al Gore was nominated for the presidency but subsequently was defeated in a disputed outcome by the Moderate Republican George W. Bush of Texas.

House service

In the House, Wilkerson was the vice chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee and served on the Civil Law and Procedure and Judiciary committees. She was the first female chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Rural Caucus, having attained that position in 1997.[3]

Later Rural Caucus Gil Pinac of Crowley in Acadia Parish, a Democrat who later switched parties, described Wilkerson as an active member of the House, particularly on issues affecting rural areas: "Pinkie helped to keep us aware of the issues and the problems facing Louisiana, especially in the rural areas and those of the poor. And Pinkie was more than talk. She always followed through, introducing legislation and initiating projects to ensure that problems were exposed and discussed. She served as chair of the Rural Caucus Stroke Awareness and Cancer Awareness programs."[3]

Wilkerson was best known for her work on education and social issues. She initiated the Youth Academy 2000, by which children are afforded the opportunity to learn directly from professionals in such fields as mathematics, science, computers, medicine, music, and entrepreneurship. She promoted awareness programs regarding diabetes, cancer, lupus, and cardiovascular disease. She introduced legislation to prohibit so-called "drive-through” mastectomies. She pushed to create an incentive program to reward those parishes with reduced rates of school dropout and teen pregnancy.[3]

In 1993, she succeeded in obtaining passage of a bill to establish a 24-hour statewide hot line for compulsive gamblers, with the contact number placed in gambling establishments and on lottery tickets. That same year she succeeded in passing legislation to authorize courts to issue restraining and protective orders for abused parents. She also labored to include grandparents and grandchildren within the coverage of family violence programs.[3]

She pushed for street lights for the Interstate 20 exchange at Grambling State University, an accomplishment that came after her death through the intervention of Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Wilkerson political ally.[9]

Legacy

Wilkerson has been honored by numerous groups. The African-American National Bar Association considers her to have been a role model for state legislators and presents an annual "Pinkie C. Wilkerson Outstanding State Legislator of the Year Award" to a deserving recipient.[10]

She is further honored through the establishment of the Pinkie C. Wilkerson Life Development Center, a non-profit organization in Grambling.[11] A short street in Gibsland in Bienville Parish, within her House district, is named for Wilkerson.

At the time of her death, then Louisiana House Speaker Charles W. DeWitt, Jr., described Wilkerson, accordingly: "{One] could define the term 'dedicated public servant' with two words—Pinkie Wilkerson. That is what she was. Her constituents came first and she worked tirelessly to see that they were represented. Sometimes [one] would get to work in the morning and find a message from Pinkie sent late the night before about a problem she was working on for her district. She was always on the job. Pinkie loved the House of Representatives. She was a loyal, active, extremely hard working member. It is difficult to accept her sudden and untimely death. I can speak for all of my colleagues in saying that she was a positive influence and will not be forgotten. . . . "[3]

Wilkerson was preceded in death by her mother. Her father, Calvin Wilkerson (1911–2000) of Grambling, died forty-five days after his daughter’s passing.[12] In addition to a son, John Barabin, Jr., she had a sister and a brother.[3]

In a special election called to fill Wilkerson’s District 11 seat, victory went to another African American Democrat, Richard “Rick” Gallot, Jr. In 2007, Wilkerson’s sister, Delores Wilkerson Smith, failed in an effort to dislodge Gallot in the primary election, having received fewer than 17 percent of the ballots cast.[13]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Political Graveyard. politicalgraveyard.com. Retrieved on December 28, 2019.
  2. Statement of Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, September 26, 2007; no longer on-line.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 State Rep. Wilkerson Killed in Auto Accident. Louisiana House of Representatives (August 1, 2000). Retrieved on December 28, 2019.
  4. "Report of the Grambling Economic Development Task Force," Louisiana State Legislature, September 26, 2009; no longer accessible on line.
  5. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 19, 1991.
  6. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 16, 1991.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 21, 1995.
  8. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 23, 1999.
  9. "Pinkie Wilkerson’s vision of Grambling I-20 lighting system becomes reality," Grambling State University Update, October 2004.
  10. National Bar Association: Legislative Update. nationalbar.org. Retrieved on September 26, 2009; no longer accessible.
  11. Pinkie C. Wilkerson Life Development Center. taxexemptworld.com. Retrieved on December 28, 2019.
  12. Social Security Death Index. ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on September 26, 2009; under pay wall.
  13. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 20, 2007.