|The Commercial Appeal headlines pointed out Minerva Johnican was a "trailblazer
for women and African-Americans." She is credited as having built
consensus and having taken on the established powers in Memphis.
Minerva Johnican died March 8, 2013, at the age of 74.
Her early career was as a school teacher and librarian but her notoriety came as she began to seek political office, losing races for a state House of Representative position in the early 1970s. She won, however, in 1975, when she ran for a seat on the Shelby County (Quarterly) Court, which was what the local county legislative body was called then. She easily won reelection in 1978, and in 1980 took on the powerful Harold Ford, challenging him for his long established U.S. Representative position. She lost that campaign and also an attempt to rejoin the County legislative body in 1982. In 1983, she ran for a Memphis City Council at-large position and became the first African American to win an at-large district. Ms. Johnican ran for mayor in 1987 but lost, lost a bid to return to the City Council in 1988, then was elected to the job of Criminal Court Clerk in 1990.
“She had a cross-section of support — both black and white, male and female — but she was particularly effective at speaking truth to power, " said U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Memphis).