We wish Bessie Moody-Lawrence well as she prepares for her last session as a state representative from York County.
Moody-Lawrence announced last week that she won't seek re-election in 2008 to the state House of Representatives from District 49. While she spent much of the past year battling breast cancer, Moody-Lawrence said her health did not prompt her decision. She has served her time, she said, "and I'm going to do something else."
There's plenty to be done in the community, and she intends to remain active, she said.
Moody-Lawrence first was elected in 1992. A retired teacher and Winthrop professor, she focused on improving the state's education system. She became known as the "velvet hammer" because of her thorough questioning.
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She was the second black woman elected to the General Assembly from York County. She's one of just three black, female state legislators in South Carolina. That's an alarmingly low number in a state with a 30 percent black population.
Moody-Lawrence was absent for much of the 2007 session because of chemotherapy treatments. But she returned in late May to vote for Don Beatty for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Her colleagues that day gave her two standing ovations, and the Legislative Black Caucus gave her a bouquet of flowers.
"All I'm asking of you folks is to improve the human condition in this state of South Carolina," Moody-Lawrence told her fellow legislators. "When the human condition is bad, you see more crime, more teenage pregnancy, more mistreatment of family; you see all this increase. It's in your power to change it."
An educated population is a free nation, she said that day. "Not for some, but give that opportunity to all, then you won't have to spend so much money on welfare and the prison system. You'd be surprised how you could cut your budget."
The legislature will miss that voice after next year. We wish her the best in her retirement from the General Assembly, and we look forward to her continued contributions here in York County.
Bessie Moody-Lawrence has been a powerful voice in the state Legislature, and we wish her well in retirement.