State mourns loss of education pioneer
by Rory Doyle
Dec 09, 2012 | 608 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A longtime advocate for educational advancement in Mississippi passed away Thursday morning.

State Sen. Alice Harden, 64, died at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson after battling a lengthy illness. Details of the illness have not been released.

She is remembered as a pioneer, becoming the state's first black female senator in 1988, where she continued to serve for the past 24 years.

The former schoolteacher is noted for spending her legislative career fighting to improve public education.

Gov. Phil Bryant said the senate is mourning the loss of a true trailblazer.

“I had the pleasure to work with her during my term as lieutenant governor and was always impressed with her determination to stand for her beliefs.”

And her passing is also being felt close to home in Bolivar and Sunflower Counties.

State Sen. Willie Simmons, who represents Bolivar, Humphreys and Sunflower Counties, said her leadership would be honored.

"She will be missed dearly," said Simmons. "She was always a strong advocate in the education field and she supported the challenges of schools in the Delta.

"She has been around in education for so long that everyone knew her."

Simmons added that one of her greatest qualities was that she stood steadfastly behind her opinions.

Cleveland Aldermen Robert Sanders, Ward 2, also had the opportunity to work with Harden when he served as the Sergeant at Arms for the Mississippi Senate from 2000-2004.

"Her loss will be a tough blow for the Delta, but she was also a person who understood the educational needs of the geographic regions throughout Mississippi," said Sanders.

"She was a person who spoke firmly in what she believed in, but she also made sure that the end results were the best results for the entire state" he added.

The past president of the Mississippi Association of Education will be remembered for her dedication to improving public schools and universities.

Rep. Cecil Brown, a longtime friend of Harden's, said: "Alice was a strong voice, not only a supporter of education, but a vocal, hard-working supporter and was adamant about trying to improve education in Mississippi.

"It's a loss for the Senate, a loss for the state and a loss for Hinds County and Jackson. It will be hard to replace somebody with that many years of experience and that kind of passion."

Simmons said her death comes as a harsh blow following the death of fellow senator Bennie Turner, 64, on Nov. 27.

"It's a tragedy in terms of timing — losing two colleagues in two weeks," said Simmons.

Harden is survived by her husband, Dennis, a daughter and many friends.