Homegoing celebrates life of Memphis political pioneer - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Homegoing celebrates life of Memphis political pioneer

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Just like Minerva Johnican, her homegoing celebration was filled with laughter and humor.

"She joked all the way," says friend Yvonne Acey, "But in that joke there was a real person."

The political pioneer held many titles – Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk, Shelby County Commissioner, Memphis City Councilwoman –Johnican is credited for her strength in paving the way for women elected-officials in the community.

MORE: Community leader, Minerva Johnican, dies at age 74

"Women in elected positions didn't realize they could win. They realized they could run but they had the fear in them, but Minerva took the fear out of them and said, ‘If I can do it, you can do it,'" says Acey.

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) worked with Johnican on the Shelby County Commission from 1978-80. Keeping his political partner close, he attended her homegoing service sporting a "Re-elect Johnican for Commission" pin.

"She was a strong person who cared about people and not power; a leader in a time when there weren't leaders that were women and/or African Americans," says Cohen, "Life well lived, and leaders like this don't come around very often."

Local politicians noted during the two-hour service Johnican's passion for people, saying she believed that they were employees of the people who elected them into office, that voters were their employers.

"She would always for any individual that called her, she returned that phone called and she tried to make sure the county government worked for them," says Cohen.

She did it all with a sense of humor about her, even in situations where people doubted her, like when she ran for mayor.

"She said, ‘I tell you what: If I run, I might win; but if I don't run I'm guaranteed to lose' so that was the kind of spirit Minerva had," says friend David Acey.

Speakers at the service say Johnican is a true role model: Courageous and a fighter for justice.

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