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Minnie Buckingham Harper


Minnie Buckingham Harper (May 15, 1886-February 10, 1978) was the first African-American woman to serve as a member of a state legislative body in the United States. She was born in Winfield, Putnam County, later moving to the coalfields of McDowell County. She was appointed by Governor Howard Gore on January 10, 1928, to fill the unexpired term of her husband, E. Howard Harper.

A Republican member of the House of Delegates from McDowell County, Mr. Harper died before completing his term. A homemaker and a resident of Keystone, Mrs. Harper had received the unanimous recommendation of the McDowell County Republican Executive Committee to fill her husband’s position. Her appointment reflected both the growing role of women in American politics and the maturation of an African-American political coalition in southern West Virginia, which by the 1920s, had become an important part of the party structure of the state. Harper served less than a term in the House of Delegates, declining to run for the office in the next election. She later married John B. Patterson, a miner, and lived with him in Northfork until his 1956 death. She returned to Winfield, where she died.

Written by I. D. "Duke" Talbott and Charles M. Murphy


  1. West Virginia Blue Book. Senate Clerk, State of West Virginia. Charleston, 1928.