MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WALA) - Colleagues and friends on the Gulf Coast are mourning the death of a longtime Alabama State Representative. Dr. Yvonne Kennedy.
Kennedy passed away on Saturday morning at UAB Hospital in Birmingham following a recent illness.
Dr. Yvonne Kennedy became the first African-American woman elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1979. One of her closest friends was in Montgomery for a special legislative meeting Saturday when he received the news of her passing.
"The chairman stopped the meeting about 11:15 an announced that he had gotten a call from the hospital UAB in Birmingham announcing Dr. Kennedy had passed," Buskey said.
Representative Buskey said he and Kennedy often rode together to Montgomery during legislative sessions. But, she was much more than a colleague.
"I know her personally to be a good person, a good friend and this community will miss her," he said.
No details were released this morning about the cause of Kennedy's death. However, Buskey and other friends in the legislature were aware she had been ill recently.
State Senator Vivian Figures said she thought Kennedy was showing improvement.
"I saw her niece. We were a plane together last Friday, and I asked her how was Yvonne. She said she was doing good, and I said tell her she's in our thoughts and prayers," Senator Figures said.
Kennedy became president of Bishop State Community College in 1981. An auditorium on campus is named in her honor.
Controversy struck the campus in 2006 when 27 employees were arrested on charges of corruption. No charges were ever filed against Kennedy, but she retired the following year.
Dr. James Lowe, who took over as president said Dr. Kennedy was a source of encouragement for him during his transition.
"Dr. Kennedy was a very personable person to me, and we had a great relationship, and I'm going to miss her," Lowe said.
Napoleon Bracey is one of the newest members of the House. He was stunned to learn of her death.
"I kind of got nervous. It's just kind of unbelievable. I sit two seats over from Dr. Kennedy while we're in session, and we're just going to really miss her. She's like an icon for our community, and she's definitely a legend for our area, and so well respected," Bracey said.
"She was a woman that exemplified grace, dignity, humility all in one, or all together you could say. Then she was a woman of such great intelligence. When she spoke, you listened," Figures said.
The governor will call a special election to fill Kennedy's seat. Senator Figures said it will likely be added to the election already set for January to fill the senate seat vacated when Ben Brooks was elected to Mobile County Circuit Court.
No funeral arraignments have been announced for Dr. Kennedy. She was 67 years old.
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