In 1968 twenty-six-year-old Flonzie Brown Goodloe won a close victory in the race to become Madison County election commissioner, thereby becoming the first African American woman to hold elective office in Mississippi since Reconstruction. Just five years earlier, she had been denied the right to vote.
Flonzie Brown was born in 1942 in Farmhaven to Little T. Dawson Brown and Frank Brown Sr. and grew up in Canton. She attended Holy Child Jesus School along with Thea Bowman, who later became a noted Catholic activist, and the Canton public schools. She enrolled at Tougaloo College, moved to California, married and had three children, divorced, and returned to Mississippi in 1962.
At that time, she recalled, “Canton was a hot spot” in the civil rights movement. Goodloe grew interested in the movement while working at a restaurant where attorneys R. Jess Brown, Jack Young, and Carsie Hall ate and committed herself to voting rights work after the June 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. She attempted to register to vote, was rejected for not knowing the meaning of habeas corpus, took a month to study the US Constitution, and passed the test. She worked for a Head Start program and helped teach classes for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1968 African American voters made up a small minority in Madison County. Activist Annie Devine suggested that Goodloe, with her knowledge of voting rules and commitment to fairness, run for the election commission, and she defeated the white incumbent, 3,613 to 3,391. She remained in office for four years.
During that time, Goodloe also served as vice president of the Institute of Politics at Millsaps College, teaching “grass-roots organizing and campaign management” to newly enfranchised African American voters and would-be officeholders. She also ran campaigns. She subsequently married William Wright and in 1994 she published a memoir, Looking Back to Move Ahead. In February 2016 Canton renamed the courtroom in its City Hall in her honor.