LaKenya Middlebrook’s Black History Month presentation at the February meeting of the Democratic Women of Knoxville included a list of Tennessee “firsts” – first black man to serve as a state legislator, first black woman to serve in the legislature (74 years later), first black alderman in Knoxville, first black school board member and first black legislator from Knox County, to name a few.
But the first that drew a round of applause came at the tag end of her talk, hasn’t happened yet, and came after Knox County Democratic Party chair Emily Gregg gave her a little prompting:
“Would I be the first?” she asked, looking out at the audience. Gregg grinned and nodded, and Middlebrook elaborated:
“In March, I will be seeking, and hopefully be elected, the next chair of the Knox County Democratic Party. I am very excited.”
So, if Middlebrook is elected, she will become a “first,” something that seems fitting for the daughter of civil rights pioneer the Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook, and for someone who was the named plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit that challenged Knox County Schools’ 1991 plan to bus minority students and close inner-city schools when she was 11 years old.
She is a proud product of public schools – kindergarten and primary school at Sarah Moore Greene Elementary, South-Doyle Middle School, Austin-East High School, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee College of Law.
She practices mostly family law, spends considerable time in juvenile court as guardian ad litem, and advises small-business owners in organizational structuring, contract review, policy and procedural development.
Her mother, Betty, is a retired social worker, and her father continues to be involved in the Democratic Party as well as in social and political issues. She has two siblings, Sherry and Al.