The Women Who Inspire Us: Karen Camper

The National Foundation of Women Legislators

by Elysian Magazine

The Honorable KAREN D. CAMPER is the first African-American woman to lead a caucus in the history of Tennessee’s General Assembly. She was elected by her colleagues as House Democratic Leader in November 2018 and elected again in November 2020. She is a member of the Shelby County Delegation, a member of the

Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus, a lifetime member of Black in Government, Past President of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, Incoming Chair of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, and board member of TN History for Kids.

As Tennessee House Minority Leader and representative of the 87th District in the Tennessee House of Representatives since 2008, she has held a seat on the House Finance Ways and Means Committee, the House Business and Utilities Committee, the House Commerce Committee, the Ethics Committee, the House Calendar and Rules Committee, and the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee.

On October 21, 2021, Representative Camper assumed the position of Redistricting House Democratic Leader and member of the House Select Redistricting Committee. “This type of select committee is different from what has been done in the past,” she explained in an interview on October 7, 2021, with Chrissy Keuper of WUOT Radio, “so this is going to be new territory, if you will, that we are navigating. I see my role as ensuring that there is the ultimate level of transparency and education for the community on redistricting. I think people need to understand it, I think people need to feel like they are part of it, and we will do our due diligence to make sure voices are heard. I’m in the minority party and am the minority within that party as a woman representing Blacks in Tennessee, which is a minority, so I have to make sure these voices are heard at every single level, at every single table I sit at, and everywhere I go. I feel I am accountable to the people—this is just something I feel deep in my heart.”

Representative Camper is a life member of the NAACP, Vice Chair of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, former board member of the Women’s Actions for New Directions, and a fellow for CSG Toll. Before being a Representative in the Tennessee Legislature, she was a Chief Warrant Officer Three of the US Army. She continues to be involved in military affairs by being a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #11333 and a charter member of Women in Military Service for America. She received her A.S. from the University of Albany SUNY. Representative Camper, a Baptist, has one child, Bruce Jr., and resides in Shelby County, Tennessee. She has taught in the Memphis City School System and is the business owner of Key II Entertainment and Founder of Humble Hearts Foundation.

When asked what advice she would offer to women who seek their path in life, Representative Camper says, “Trust in your inner self. ‘Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. [John 4:4, KJB]’”

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