Shirlene Mercer Obituary, Jackson, TN, First African American woman to win the Miss Tennessee, Has Died

Shirlene Mercer Obituary, Death – When Shirlene Mercer died away today, our family not only said goodbye to a beloved member, but we also said goodbye to a pioneer. After moving to Jackson 23 years ago to take a reporting job at The Jackson Sun, I rapidly became aware of her influence not only in the surrounding area but also on a national scale.

She was a proud graduate of Lane College and she was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi, where she lived. She was one of the famed four freshmen from Lane High School that led sit-in protests at “white’s only” lunch counters in Jackson, Mississippi. I can’t stop thinking about how Shirlene passed suddenly just a few days after Miss Lane College Jada Brown became the first African American woman to win the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant.

Brown made history by becoming the first Black woman to be elected Miss Tennessee Volunteer. In Jackson, Shirlene was instrumental in laying the groundwork and strengthening the platform for justice and equality. As soon as people found out that I had married into the Mercer family, they began inquiring whether or not we were related.

(The connection: cousins on the same side as my spouse.) When I was in a store in South Jackson one day, a man heard my last name, and he approached me. He began by expressing to me how indebted he was to Shirlene for everything. According to him, she is a powerful advocate, and she was of assistance to him when she was working as the Director of the District Services for Congressman John Tanner.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to extend an invitation to Shirlene and her daughter, Tina, to join me and my guests for lunch at the Jackson Old Hickory Rotary Club the previous year so that we could hear Tanner speak there. Tanner’s and everyone else’s day was brightened by the presence of Shirlene there.

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