In her spirited address at the dedication ceremony honoring Esther Harrison, state Rep. Omeria Scott recited a long list of honors the late Columbus legislator had received over the years, everything from state government and civil rights to her alma maters, Alcorn State and Mississippi University for Women, and her church.
“These accolades were not empty tributes,” Scott told the crowd of about 80 people who gathered Wednesday at the Municipal Complex in Columbus for the unveiling of a road sign that will designate the portion of Highway 182 between Martin Luther King Drive and Lehmberg Road as the Esther M. Harrison Memorial Highway. “In each and every one of these groups, Esther Harrison earned those honors. She was a worker. That’s what she did.”
Harrison represented Lowndes County and the city of Columbus as the District 41 representative in the State Legislature from 2000 until her death on June 9, 2015, her 69th birthday.
In her nearly four terms in the Legislature, Harrison built a reputation as a hard worker in the various legislative committees for which she served and as a vocal advocate on the House floor.
“Esther always said, ‘show up, stand up, speak up,'” said retired Rep. Tyrone Ellis, one of Harrison’s mentors in the Legislature.
The Columbus native and an alumna of Alcorn State and MUW was an active member of the NAACP prior to her arrival to the Legislature. Her years of experience in a variety of governmental, advocacy and community organizations earned her a reputation as a tireless worker and trusted colleague.
The dedication ceremony Wednesday drew family (including her daughter, Aubra Givens and grandson, Alexander Givens), friends and state and local elected officials. A half-dozen of Harrison’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority sisters from Alcorn came to show their respects, as well as Kabir Karriem, who succeeded Harrison as the District 41 representative.
“It’s a special privilege for me to be here today,” Karriem said. “In fact, my first piece of legislation was to have the highway dedication for Esther Harrison. It passed in 2016, but the signs were stuck in some warehouse. I’m glad we’re able to get these signs up, finally. Esther deserves this.”
Scott said the signs will be a constant reminder not only of Harrison’s contributions but of a continuing commitment to the causes she worked and fought for.
“We honor her memory, but Esther is still alive in all the things she believed in,” Scott said. “It’s now our responsibility to continue that work. That’s what Esther would want most.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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