This week, I lost a true friend, colleague and mentor when Rep. Yvonne Kennedy passed away.
When I first heard the news, I was shocked. It was very unexpected. But as I began to mourn her passing, the thought occurred to me that this shouldn’t just be a time for saying goodbye to a friend we lost.
This should also be a time to celebrate her life and to take note of how many other lives she touched while she was with us.
Yvonne served in the legislature for nearly 34 years, making her one of the longest serving members in the legislature. And in that time, she was a tireless advocate for the people of Alabama and an outstanding representative for the people of Mobile.
Over the years, Yvonne was a champion for many causes, including extending the federal Voting Rights Act and allowing ex-felons the right to vote if they were convicted of crimes that did not involve moral turpitude. As a devout Christian, she believed in forgiveness and giving people second chances.
But she also introduced legislation to increase the amount of funding for domestic violence shelters and to prevent companies from price gouging during emergencies. Yvonne was a leader, having previously served as Chairperson of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and as Chairman of the Mobile County United Negro College Fund Campaign.
She was also one of the strongest advocates in the legislature for education. As a legislator, she introduced legislation to require criminal history checks on college students who entered into teacher training programs to make sure we knew who we were sending into our classrooms.
Outside of the legislature, Yvonne served as president of Bishop State Community College for 25 years and was a Trustee of Miles College. She was also a member of the Board of the American Association for Higher Education.
As an educator, she inspired students and took the time to listen to them and get to know them.
She invested her time and energy into their futures, and those former students will tell you today just how much that meant to them.
But Yvonne’s commitment to community and service was not limited to the legislature and post-secondary education. Yvonne also served as president of the national Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a non-profit organization devoted to economic and educational development, physical and mental health, and political involvement. She also worked with the Junior Miss Scholarship Foundation and served as Youth Director for the Board of Christian Education of the Southeast Alabama Conference of the CME Church.
Yvonne Kennedy touched thousands of lives while she was with us, and those of us who knew her will miss her greatly. It is never easy to lose someone, especially at this time of year.
But that is why we need to celebrate their lives, and not just mourn their passing. I am thankful to have known Yvonne Kennedy and for the impact she had on so many lives. She will be missed.