JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi state Rep. Esther Harrison, D-Columbus, is being remembered as someone who worked for her constituents without seeking the spotlight for herself.
Harrison died on her 69th birthday Wednesday at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She was on kidney dialysis for several years and had been in and out of the hospital recently, family friend Constance Slaughter-Harvey said.
Harrison was elected to the Legislature in November 1999 and took office in January 2000 to represent District 41, which is entirely in Lowndes County. The Columbus native was a former teacher and business administrator.
"She would have dialysis in Columbus and then drive to Jackson in time to attend the session. That was the level of her commitment to her constituents," Slaughter-Harvey said. "She was a soft-spoken woman but was strong in her convictions."
Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, the House Democratic leader, said Harrison was a valued member of the Legislature.
"Esther was always a sweet, quiet lady — that is, until she voiced her opinion on issues important to her district when she was clearly able to let you know where she stood," Moak said.
Rickey Cole, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, said Harrison leaves a "legacy of service" that improved the state.
"I remember when she was first elected, bringing a passion for progress to the House that would remain her constant hallmark throughout her career," Cole said. "She represented her constituents attentively, and she served all Mississippians effectively. He quiet dignity, even in the face of here final long illness, is a great lesson in strength, endurance and devotion to duty."
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he and his wife, Deborah, were saddened to learn of Harrison's death.
"She worked quietly and effectively for the people of her district, never seeking fanfare or the spotlight," Bryant said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones."
Harrison was a candidate for re-election in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary against challenger Kabir Karriem. No Republican or independent candidate is running for the seat.
Harrison was chairwoman of the House State Library Committee in the 2008-2012 and was vice chairman of the committee this term. She also served on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. She was a past co-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
"Democrats are trying to be responsible while remaining fiscally sound," Harrison said when the party caucus formed in 2005.
Harrison was an alumna of Mississippi University for Women. In 2010, she was among those opposing a suggestion by then-Gov. Haley Barbour to merge some universities to save money. Among other things, the Republican governor proposed merging MUW with Mississippi State University.
"The case is made. We want to keep (MUW) like it is," Harrison told The Commercial-Dispatch at the time.
Funeral arrangements were pending Wednesday. Survivors include a daughter, Aubra Berenice Givens.