SC Rep. Juanita Willmon-Goggins
SC Rep. Juanita Willmon-Goggins is a trailblazer. Many of her achievements have set the stage for African-Americans and women to make dreams become realities. Four years after the first black men since Reconstruction were elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1970, Willmon-Goggins became the first African-American woman elected to the state’s general assembly. That same year, 1974, she was appointed to serve on the United States Civil Rights Commission. (Established in 1957 and strengthened by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the commission serves as a clearinghouse to oversee civil rights legislation.) A native of Pendleton, South Carolina, Willmon-Goggins graduated from the Anderson County Training School. At South Carolina State University, she earned a degree in home economics education, graduating in 1957. She later became certified as an elementary school teacher, serving in the public schools of York, Chester and Fairfield counties. She also continued her education at the University of South Carolina and Winthrop University. Willmon-Goggins’ determination to excel became evident at a very early age. She began speaking at public gatherings at the age of two, her mother encouraging her to learn Bible verses and short poems to recite at home, at church and in the community. “My parents instilled in me Christian values, emphasized the importance of hard work, and taught me the reward of work well done,” she explained. Her teachers motivated her and helped enhance her talents. Education has always been a top priority for Willmon-Goggins. While in the state legislature, she authored the original South Carolina kindergarten legislation. The bill illustrated the urgency of early education and the state’s entire early childhood education grew from her initiative. She is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of the Juanita W. Goggins School of Excellence, a tutorial corporation for young people from kindergarten through twelfth grade. In the six years that she represented District 49, York County, in the South Carolina Legislature, Willmon-Goggins used her influence to improve public health facilities in the state. She was responsible for creating Sickle Cell Anemia testing in all of the county health departments. (Sickle Cell Anemia is a hereditary ailment that primarily affects African-Americans.) She also served on the legislature’s powerful Ways and Means Committee. (A Ways and Means Committee establishes methods and resources for raising necessary state revenues.) A staunch member of the Democratic Party, SC Rep. Willmon-Goggins was twice a guest of President Jimmy Carter at the White House. She was the first African-American woman from South Carolina to be elected National Committeewoman for a major political party. She has served on many board and political committees which generate ideas and policies that touch the lives of women and African-Americans. Her political papers and souvenirs are on file at the Winthrop University Archives and there is a display of her achievements at the Smithsonian Institute. This outstanding public servant and educator has received numerous awards and honors, including South Carolina State University’s Alumna of the Year in 1975, and a National Spotlight Recognition at the university’s centennial celebration in 1996. She is listed in many publications, including Who’s Who in Politics in America. SC Rep. Juanita Willmon-Goggins passed away in February 2010.