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Woman on a mission

By Reginald Owens
On March 21, 2019

From her childhood growing up in Grambling until her death in 2000, Wilkerson stayed connected to her hometown and alma mater. Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

State Rep. Pinkie Wilkerson (second from left) was involved in her community. Here she is with then Gov. Mike Foster (center) as he recognizes Grambling residents Wanda and Abrah Ford as Foster Parents of the Year. On the left is state Rep. Willie Hunter. Wilkerson worked tirelessly for her constituents, championing issues related to education, social and rural issues. Courtesy photo

It was a characteristic sight, this woman on a mission, often seen driving the back roads of North Central Louisiana, going somewhere to help somebody.
That is how many remember Pinkie Carolyn Wilkerson. To her family, friends and constituents, she was a phenomenal woman, always on a mission, dedicated to her job.
Her task crossed class, race and geographic lines, because human need has no color, no boundary, no special place.
It could have been an elderly woman who had no running water in this era of plenty or a chicken farmer who needed help navigating the bureaucratic maze of government rules. Maybe it was a single mom who needed a ride to her first job or a whole town in search of grant money for fire-fighting equipment. She helped.
To her colleagues in the Louisiana State Legislature, State Representative Wilkerson was relentless in her efforts to get funds and services for District 11. They saw in her one who stood by hard-worn principles, one who would not back down from the tough issue and one who was not afraid to ask the difficult question.
Wilkerson was killed August 1, 2000, when a truck rammed into the back of her vehicle while she was stopped at a highway construction site in Bossier City. Among the many dignitaries and elected officials who attended her funeral in T. H. Harris Auditorium at GSU was a busload of black members from the Louisiana State Legislature.
As a vehicle to carry on her work, her law office in Grambling became the headquarters for the Pinkie C. Wilkerson Life Development Center, which also houses her sorority, the Grambling Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Everyone admired this woman on a mission who worked so hard.
Her historic strides were made in paths imprinted with strong family ties and community values that demanded duty and service. She walked in the footsteps of many fore parents in this area: her father Calvin A. Wilkerson — Grambling businessman, Lincoln Parish School Board member and trustee on the University of Louisiana System board; great-grandfather Rev. Gus May, founding pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church; and relative Lafayette Richmond, considered the founder of what is now the city of Grambling.
Most people first saw her when she was elected the first black state representative for District 11.
Her curiosity and dedication to task was evident in high school where she was active in the student council, the debate team, band and numerous clubs. As a student at GSU Laboratory High School, she also won many honors in district, regional and statewide competitions sponsored by the Louisiana   
She was a member of Lewis Temple C.M.E. Church where she participated in many church-sponsored activities.  
She received her B.A. degree from Grambling State University; an M. S. degree from Ohio University; a J. D. degree from Southern University School of Law; and an LL. M. degree from Tulane University School of Law.  
She began her law practice in Grambling in 1979.  She has served as assistant district attorney in the 3rd Judicial District of Lincoln and Union parishes.  She also served as assistant attorney general for the State of Louisiana.  She was an attorney with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith in New York City.
The fruits of her life can clearly be seen in this area. Her mission continues through the institutions and policies she created and inspired. Among them are:
- Worked to get lighting at the Grambling exit on I-20. The state named the exit in her honor.
- Sponsored legislation in 1993 establishing a 24-hour statewide compulsive gamblers helpline. This legislation also required that this helpline number be placed in gambling establishments, on casino advertising and on lottery tickets.
- The first and only female chair of the Louisiana Legislative Rural Caucus.
- Supported legislation, programs and measures relating to rural, educational and social issues.

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