Breaking News
More () »

Forsyth County lawmakers reflect on legacy of Triad trailblazer

Annie Brown Kennedy died last Tuesday. She was the first Black woman to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — North Carolina lost a leader who paved the way for countless others. 

Former State Representative Annie Brown Kennedy died on Jan. 17. 

She was 98.

Kennedy was the first Black woman to serve in the General Assembly. Gov. Jim Hunt appointed her to fill a vacant seat in 1979. She lived in Winston-Salem and represented Forsyth County for 13 years.

Several state lawmakers credit their standing to Kennedy's legacy. Rep. Amber Baker (D-Forsyth) and Rep. Kanika Brown (D-Forsyth) are among them.

"I never expected that I would be following her footpath and standing on her shoulders now as a representative in the legislature," Baker said.

"This is an icon," Brown said. "We're talking about a legend."

Baker said she worked with Kennedy a few times. She said she learned something new that helped her grow each time.

"When we have individuals that challenge us to do better and be better, that's when we rise to the highest level of that expectation," Baker said.

Kennedy earned degrees from Spelman College and Howard University. Baker, who got her undergraduate degree at Winston-Salem State University, credited the late lawmaker for helping put HBCUs on the map.

Brown said Kennedy's legacy is personal to her. The lawmaker said she grew up near a community center that was shut down due to discrimination. She recalled members of the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses in her neighbors' yards.

"Women like her that fought to bring equality, they just mean so much," Brown said.

Brown called her a champion for all people. She said Kennedy dedicated her life to equity across Forsyth County and the state.

"We have to remember that and keep her legacy going by setting the standards she set for 'We The People,'" Brown said.

Brown called for Winston-Salem to establish a memorial for Kennedy and designate a day "Annie Brown Kennedy Day."

Kennedy was also the second Black woman to become a lawyer in state history.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) ordered all flags to fly at half-staff earlier this week to honor her.

"My friend, Rep. Annie Brown Kennedy, was an extraordinary public servant who paved the way for future leaders in our state," Cooper said in a statement.

Kennedy's family will hold a funeral for her at Wait Chapel Thursday.

Before You Leave, Check This Out