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1st black woman in Legislature dies alone, cold

Mar 10, 2010 11:14:00 PM - thestate.com
When Juanita Goggins became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1974, she was hailed as a trailblazer and twice visited the president at the White House.

Three decades later, she died of hypothermia-induced heart attack at age 75, a solitary figure living in a rented house four miles from the gleaming State House dome.

Goggins, whose achievements included key legislation on school funding, kindergarten and class size, had become increasingly reclusive. She spent her final years turning down help from neighbors who knew little of her history-making past. Her body was not discovered for more than a week.

Those neighbors, as well as former colleagues and relatives, are now left wondering whether they could have done more to help.

"I'm very saddened. People like her you want to see live forever. She had quite a gift for helping others," said state Sen. John Land, a fellow Democrat who was first elected to the House the same year as Goggins.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)