- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State Sen. Thelma Harper, a longtime lawmaker from Nashville who became the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, has announced that she will not seek re-election.

The 77-year-old lawmaker announced the decision to WTVF-TV on Wednesday. The announcement comes after Harper’s husband, Nashville businessman Paul Harper, died last week.

Thelma Harper, long known for wearing large, stylish hats, was first elected to the Senate in 1991. In addition to being the first African-American woman to be voted into that body, she became the first female to ever preside over the state Senate.

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The lawmaker has been contemplating retirement for a long time. Last year, state Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville said she would run for Harper’s seat if she were to step down.

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