Yvonne Brown – Wikipedia

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American politician (1952–2012)

Yvonne Brown

In office
Preceded by Frances Wilkes
Succeeded by Sharkey Ford

Yvonne L. Rayford

(1952-09-08)September 8, 1952
Chicago, Illinois

Died April 23, 2012(2012-04-23) (aged 59)
Tchula, Mississippi
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Occupation Mayor

Yvonne L. Rayford Brown (September 8, 1952 – April 23, 2012[1]) was an American politician and member of the Republican Party from the state of Mississippi. She was elected as Mayor of Tchula, serving two terms from 2001 to 2009. This small town is in Holmes County on the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta. She was also the Republican nominee for Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in the 2006 mid-term elections.

She was notable for being the first female black Republican mayor in the state of Mississippi[2][3][4][5][6] and the first in the entire United States, according to several sources.[6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Yvonne L. Rayford was born in 1952 in Chicago, Illinois to Hilda and Bennie Rayford.[1] She had sisters LaVonne “Pye” and Gail Rayford. The family moved to Toledo, Ohio, where her parents worked as teachers in the Toledo public school system.[1] After she graduated from Rogers High School, the family moved back to her parents’ native Mississippi. Her father had been active in the Democratic Party and worked as a local co-ordinator for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign.

He was not well received by local Democrats when he returned to Mississippi and changed parties, becoming a Republican.[1] Yvonne also became a Republican. Yvonne Rayford first married Russell Barnett. Later they divorced.

Barnett worked for Monroe Auto Equipment in Monroe County, Mississippi, Irvin Automotive in Greenwood and Pharmacy Corporation of America.[1] She moved to Tchula in 1995, where she married again to Robert Brown.[9]

She and her husband lived in an abandoned grocery store, which was used partly as a meeting space for her husband’s ministry.[10] Together they co-founded the Grace Community Church in Tchula.[1] Yvonne Brown became involved in politics by being part of a “ministerial duo” with her husband, leading efforts to rehabilitate homes, conduct Bible clubs in back yards, volunteer at a food bank, minister to the elderly, and hold free classes and clinics.[9]

In June 2001, Yvonne Rayford Brown was the Republican nominee for Mayor of Tchula, a black-majority town that is 99% Democratic.[9] She won the election, defeating the Democratic incumbent and receiving national media attention as the first female black Republican mayor in the United States.[4][11] As mayor, she won a stimulus package grant of $5 million from Washington for her town which she used, in part, to build a municipal complex.[9][10] She also used federal funding for water, sewer and street construction and built or improved recreational facilities.[1] As mayor, she earned a salary of $6,000 per year.[4] She served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2004[12][13] and was re-elected mayor in 2005.

Brown was the Republican nominee for Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district[14] in the United States House of Representatives in the 2006 mid-term elections. She was unopposed in the Republican primary and faced Democratic incumbent Bennie Thompson in the general election, losing to the longtime congressman by 100,160 votes (64.27%) to 55,672 (35.73%).[12][15]

After leaving office in 2009, Brown worked as the Lowndes County Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. She was diagnosed with cancer in February 2011 and resigned a few months later. She died in April 2012, aged 59.[1] She was survived by her mother (her father died in 2010), her sisters LaVonne “Pye” Rayford Chestang and Gail Rayford Ambeau, and her daughters Nichole and Aliya Barnett.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Mark Zaborney (May 4, 2012). “Yvonne L. Rayford Brown, 1952–2012: Former Toledoan was mayor in Miss”. The Blade. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  2. ^ Cyrus Webb (September 16, 2006). “Mayor Yvonne Brown: Guided by Faith, Driven to Serve”. Jackson Free Press. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …only the second female mayor of the small town in Holmes County and the state of Mississippi’s only black female Republican mayor,…A native of Chicago…
  3. ^ Jessie Carney Smith (December 1, 2012). Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (book: 848 pages). Visible Ink Press. ISBN 9781578594252. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …first black woman Republican mayor in the state…
  4. ^ a b c Donald Adderton (July 15, 2002). “At the RNC with Party Chair Ed Gillespie”. Press Register. Retrieved September 23, 2014. …Brown is proud of being the first African-American female Republican to be elected mayor – not only in Mississippi, but also the United States – …
  5. ^ Lynne W. Jeter, July 8, 2002, Mississippi Business Journal, Tchula secures record-setting USDA Rural Development, Retrieved September 24, 2014, “…elected the first black female Republican mayor in the state, and perhaps in the nation,…”
  6. ^ a b WTOK ABC News channel 11, April 24, 2005, NAACP Hosts Freedom Fund Banquet, Retrieved September 24, 2014, “….the Honorable Yvonne Brown, the country’s first African-American female Republican mayor…..”
  7. ^ Jul 14, 2002, Delta Democrat Times, Yvonne Brown’s politics grounded in Scripture, Retrieved Sept. 24, 2014, “…the first African-American female Republican to be elected mayor — … also the United States…”
  8. ^ Dan Chapman (April 8, 2002). “Foes, fame just part of the job for black GOP mayor in Delta”. Free Republic. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …Brown — believed to be the only African-American, female, Republican mayor in the United States…
  9. ^ a b c d Lynn Lofton (April 24, 2006). “Tchula mayor wants to serve Second Congressional District”. Mississippi Business Journal. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …Brown, 53, … part of a ministerial duo … helped many residents by rehabbing homes, conducting back yard Bible clubs, … successful in bringing an economic stimulus package of $5 million in federal funds to Tchula …
  10. ^ a b Stan Torgerson (February 10, 2004). “Tchula Mayor Aims High”. ABC News WTOK (Meridian Mississippi). Retrieved September 20, 2014. …Once in office she went to Washington and asked for a $10 million grant and got $5 million….
  11. ^ “Black, Republican, female elected mayor”. Franklin County Times. June 19, 2001. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  12. ^ a b “Former Tchula Mayor Brown dies”. WAPT. April 24, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …Brown served as Tchula’s mayor from 2001 to 2009 … population of about 2,100 that was about 97 percent black…. Republican nominee for Congress in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District in 2006, … delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2004….
  13. ^ Tavis Smiley (August 30, 2004). “At the RNC with Party Chair Ed Gillespie”. NPR. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …NPR’s Tavis Smiley … from Yvonne Brown of Tchula, Miss., the only African-American woman mayor in the country and first-time convention delegate….
  14. ^ National Atlas Electoral map
  15. ^ Kristen Wyatt (May 20, 2006). “Republicans Pin Hopes on Black Candidates”. Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved September 20, 2014. …Yvonne Brown is challenging an incumbent black Democrat … Brown, 53, the mayor of Tchula….
  16. ^ “Funeral held for state’s first black female Republican mayor”. The Mississippi Link. May 8, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2014.

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