Reps. Pittman, Shumate praise Hannah Atkins as 'trailblazer' for all
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Published: 19-Jun-2010

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 19-Jun-2010

Top Oklahoma leaders continued to remember Hannah Atkins as news of the former Secretary of State spread across the Sooner State yesterday.

State Rep. Anastasia Pittman, an east Oklahoma City Democrat, expressed her sadness yesterday (Friday, June 18) at the passing of Hannah Atkins, the first black woman elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Also praising the legendary civil rights and civic leader was state Rep. Jabar Shumate, a north Tulsa Democrat who is the elected chairman of the state Legislature’s Black Caucus.

Atkins passed away Thursday night at the age of 86.

“Hannah Atkins was the trailblazer who led the way for other black women to serve in the state House,” Pittman said. “I would not be here if not for her example and it saddens me greatly to hear of her passing. She set the standard for how to represent one’s constituents, how to lead. She also had poise and grace, and was overall a very classy and remarkable woman and leader. A great many people are going to miss her.”

Atkins was elected to represent House District 97 in 1968 and was the first woman to chair a House committee. After more than a decade serving in the Legislature, Gov. Henry Bellmon appointed her Secretary of Social Services, Secretary of Human Resources and Secretary of State. She retired in 1991 as the highest ranking woman in Oklahoma state government.

“It’s amazing that she not only became the first black woman to serve in the House, but that she was able to accomplish so much and go on to other firsts,” Pittman said. “She was just one of those people that did not see a limit to what she could achieve.

“My prayer is that her legacy will continue through our leadership on the second century and that we will inspire new leaders for the next generation.”

Rep. Shumate, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, issued the following statement Friday after learning of Rep. Atkins’ death:

“Hannah Atkins was a true trailblazer in Oklahoma politics who was both the first black woman elected to the state House and the first woman to chair a House committee. Her career shows that hard work and dedication can overcome the obstacles of prejudice and discrimination.”

Shumate concluded, “At a time when African-Americans were given only grudging admittance into state government and black women faced even greater institutional resistance, she still rose through the ranks and served our state with distinction. Her life shows that the vestiges of racism are no match for a person with perseverance and character.”

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