When Juanita Goggins became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1974, she was hailed as a trailblazer. Three decades later, she froze to death at age 75, a solitary figure living in a rented house four miles from the gleaming Statehouse dome. Goggins, whose achievements included key legislation on school funding, kindergarten, and class size, had become increasingly reclusive, say neighbors.
The youngest of 10 children, she was the only sibling to earn a four-year college degree, which she followed with a master's. In 1972, she became the first black woman to represent South Carolina as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Two years later, she became the first black woman appointed to the US Civil Rights Commission. She spent her final years turning down help from neighbors who knew little of her history-making past. Police found her body March 3—two weeks after she was last seen.