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Justin J. Pearson wins Tennessee District 86 election, filling the late Rep. Barbara Cooper's seat

In a landslide win, Pearson takes over the seat of former State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who died before winning re-election in November.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The special election to fill the seat of the late Tennessee State Rep. Barbara Cooper in the Tennessee House of Representatives came to a close Tuesday, with Memphis social justice activist Justin J. Pearson declared the winner.

The Tennessee District 86 special election was held Tuesday, and Pearson won the vote by a wide margin. 

Pearson made The Root 100 list in 2022 as one of the most influential Black Americans in the country, joining the likes of Lebron James and Tyler Perry. 

He has advocated for various social justice initiatives in recent years, including raising money with the Poor People's Campaign for the town of Mason, Tennessee, and advocating for the removal of coal ash from Memphis neighborhoods.

Cooper died Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at 93 years old.

A Memphis native, Cooper served as the Tennessee State Rep. for Shelby County District 86 for 26 years. 

She was first elected in 1996. She served on several state committees including the Health and Safety Committee and the Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee.

The Shelby County Election Commission said Cooper’s name remained on Tuesday’s ballot after her unexpected death Oct. 25, “as mandated by state law.”

Back in April, Cooper was honored in Nashville as the oldest-serving state legislator.


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