Annie Brown Kennedy, the first Black woman to serve in N.C. General Assembly, passed away this week.

Her son, Harvey Kennedy, confirmed that his mother died on Tuesday (Jan. 17) of natural causes, in her home in Winston-Salem. “She was a wonderful mother,” Kennedy told the Winston-Salem Journal. “She was a trailblazer.”

A native of Atlanta, Kennedy was a graduate of Spelman and Howard University’s School of Law who would have a long list of accomplishments. She was the second African American female attorney in North Carolina and the second female attorney to practice law in Forsyth County.

Law would become a family business of sorts. In 1955, she and her husband, Harold Kennedy Jr., would form one of the first husband-and-wife partnerships in the state. The law firm Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, & Kennedy (which also included sons Harvey and Harold III) specialized in family law and civil litigation.

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In 1976, Annie Kennedy became North Carolina’s first Black female presidential elector, and three years later, she was appointed to N.C. House, District 29 by then-Gov. Jim Hunt. “I remember her well,” Hunt said of Kennedy on Tuesday. “I was very proud to appoint her because I had seen the work she had done in Winston-Salem.” He further described Annie Kennedy “as a real pioneer in terms of African American leadership in one of the major cities in North Carolina.”

After an unsuccessful campaign to keep her seat in 1980, Kennedy returned to the House in 1982, representing District 66. Her son Harvey said that she worked for passage of paid family leave and successfully blocked other legislators from closing Winston-Salem State University’s nursing program. She also helped draw the district designed to elect Black candidates to Congress, N.C. General Assembly, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education.

Annie Kennedy stepped down from the General Assembly in the mid-1990s, after serving 13 years.

Annie Brown Kennedy, 1st Black Woman in NC’s Legislature, Dies at 98  was originally published on