Thelma M. Harper (December 2, 1940 – April 22, 2021) was an American politician and the first African-American woman state senator in Tennessee and the longest-serving female state senator in Tennessee history. She was also the first African-American woman to serve as the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee; she held that position during the 102nd, 103rd, 104th, and 105th General Assemblies, and she also served as vice chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee during the 97th and 101st General Assemblies and the first senator to serve as chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus.Harper, was a Democratic member of the Tennessee Senate for the 19th district, which is composed of a large portion of Davidson County including the urban core of Nashville.She began her public service in 1980, when she was elected as executive committeewoman for the 2nd district. She was next elected to the city council in 1983, where she served for 8 years. She simultaneously served as the 2nd District councilwoman and as state senator of the 19th District to complete her term in the city council. She had a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration/accounting from Tennessee State University.
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