Wombles’s legacy – justice for eugenics victims

Former N.C. Representative Larry Womble

Wombles’s legacy – justice for eugenics victims
May 20
15:33 2020

Flags were flown at half-staff at state and federal buildings across the state earlier this week to honor the life and service of Winston-Salem legend Larry Womble. Womble died last Thursday, May 14, at his home here in the city. 

In a statement Gov. Roy Cooper said, “Former Representative Larry Womble spent his life advocating for racial and education equality in North Carolina. Our prayers are with his family, loved ones, and the Winston-Salem community.”

Womble’s love and passion for community service began when he was a student at the historic Atkins High School on Cameron Avenue. He was known for organizing sit-ins and other movements throughout the city. After high school, Womble went on to graduate from Winston-Salem State University in 1963. For many years he worked as a teacher and assistant principal in the local school district. 

In 1981, Womble made his second run at a seat on the board of alderman (now Winston-Salem City Council). That year he became the first African American to represent the Southeast Ward, where he would serve for more than 15 years. In 1995 Womble was elected to the N.C. House. 

During his tenure in the N.C. House, Womble pushed for reparations for victims of the state’s eugenics program. Between 1933 and 1974, N.C. ran one of the most aggressive eugenic programs, sterilizing thousands of men, women and children. In 2017 Womble’s efforts were featured in “The State of Eugenics,” a documentary that follows the journey of survivors, legislators and others pushing for the state to confront its role in the eugenics program. He was also known for his work with the local NAACP and Experiment in Self-Reliance. 

After serving his ninth term, in 2011 Womble was injured in a car accident that led him to not run for reelection in 2012. Over the years Womble continued to use his past experiences to educate and inspire others. He would regularly attend events throughout the city and would make the occasional appearance at local city council meetings. 

When Womble’s passing was made public, several elected officials took to social media to share their condolences. Here’s just a few from some well-known people in the community:

“I couldn’t be the first African American sheriff in this county if people like Larry Womble had not gone before me and paved the way. If someone had not shown that African Americans could be capable, competent people in our community, I would not be in this office today. Larry Womble didn’t just impact the African American community, he impacted the entire community for the better.” – Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr.

“…He worked tirelessly for the community. Let the community honor his good works and dedication to move us forward. RIP my friend and warrior for the community. Prayers of comfort and strength to his family.” –Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El Amin

“On behalf of the citizens of Winston-Salem, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of former N.C. State Representative Larry Womble. Representative Womble had been a strong voice for the rights of the underprivileged while he served on the board of alderman and later as a state representative. We remember his work as an alderman in pushing for downtown development of residential housing many, many years ago before it became an accepted concept. We also recognize Representative Womble’s contributions in getting state legislation passed for financial compensation to be made to victims of the forced sterilization program.” –Mayor Allen Joines

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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