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Black Women in Local Politics

It is well past time to celebrate and give recognition to the place African American women have created within the U.S. political history. As we celebrate the victory of Lori Lightfoot becoming the first African American woman mayor of Chicago, we also remember that it was half a century ago when Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. Let us not overlook the local African American women who are adding to the foundation of the political landscape. On March 7, 2019, five of these outstanding women were recognized for their contributions at the University of Kentucky, Black Women in Politics Celebration Luncheon.


Angela C. Evans is a native of Lexington, KY.  In 2015, she was elected to the Lexington-Fayette Urban City Council. She has served as a public defender in Lexington, KY, and represented indigent clients in misdemeanor and felony court. She also served as an Assistant Attorney General of Kentucky for six years, providing legal services to various state agencies, and General Counsel to the Kentucky Secretary of State. She served on the Ethics Commission from 2002 to 2009 and served as Chairperson from 2007 to 2009. Angela C. Evans is employed by McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC and serves the 6th District. She is an active member of the Lexington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, serves as a Board member for the Central Kentucky Blood Center, and is an advisor on the University of Kentucky’s College of Communication and Information National Advisory Board. She has participated in two Expert Meetings hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria, and has contributed to two UN handbooks focused on preventing recidivism and reintegrating offenders into society. Angela C. Evans earned her bachelor’s degree in social work with honors from Clark Atlanta University. She is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she earned her J. D in 2000 and was awarded the Dean’s Citation for exemplary service to the College of Law.


Judge Pamela Goodwine was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in November 2018 to serve Division 1 of the 5th Appellate District. Her first service on the bench was as a district court judge starting in August of 1999, and in 2001, she was named the Fayette County Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer. She had previously practiced labor and employment law with the firm of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs starting in 1994 and continuing until her appointment to the district court bench. She was Chief Regional Circuit Judge for Fayette County beginning in 2003, and served as a Fayette County Drug Court judge beginning in 2011. She earned the Henry V. Pennington Trial Judge of the Year Award from the Kentucky Justice Association in 2012. Judge Goodwine also served as Commissioner and chair of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. In 2018, she won two prestigious awards: the 2018 “Women Making History” Award from the Kentucky Commission on Women and the Carl Beshear, “Walking by Faith” Award from the Carter G. Woodson Academy. Judge Goodwine is a two-time alumna of the University of Kentucky, having earned her undergraduate degree from the Carol Martin Gatton College of Business, where she is in the Alumni Hall of Fame, and she earned a J. D. from the UK College of Law.


Denise Gray was born and raised on the North side of Lexington, KY. She is a proud graduate of Bryan Station High School. She attended college at the University of Louisville where she was a member of the National Championship Cheerleading Squad while earning a B.A. in Communications. Denise Gray is also a graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She made the decision not to practice law, but to follow her strong desire to work with children. At the Fayette County Public Schools District, she works with special needs children. She is also a leader in the Children’s Ministry at the Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, as well as her work with The Women’s Network, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Fayette County Education Support Association. Denise Gray was featured for her participation in the National Education Association’s See Educators Run Program. In 2018, she ran unsuccessfully for the 88th Kentucky Senate District. Ms. Gray is family-oriented and strongly supported by her parents, siblings, family and friends.


Andrea James is a native of Lexington, KY. In 2006, she was Lexington’s first woman of color to be elected to the Lexington-Fayette Urban City Council and she served for two terms representing the first district. After her serving on the Council, she cofounded S&A Strategies consulting group. She has also been a co-host for Key Conversations radio show on WUKY. For several years, she was program manager of neighborhood initiatives at the Blue Grass Community Foundation, where the bulk of her work focused on the East End and North End areas of Lexington. She was recently appointed by newly elected Mayor Linda Gorton to coordinate special projects, beginning with the Mayor’s opioid addiction initiative. Andrea James is a co-founder of Not the Only One (NTOO), a woman of color networking meet-up group that has connected more than 400 local residents for support, networking, and encouragement. Andrea James’ professional areas of interests are art, culture, food, health, philanthropy, and economic development through a lens of equity and inclusion.


Melissa Moore Murphy spent 12 of her 15-year legal career as a criminal prosecutor. She has worked as an Assistant Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Assistant McCracken County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Assistant Fayette County Attorney, and as a Special Assistant United States’ Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky. She is currently an attorney in the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s (LFUCG) Law Department. In her present position, she advises and represents various departments and divisions, including the Department of Social Services, Division of Grants and Special Programs, Division of Enhanced 911, Division of Police, the Office of Affordable Housing, and the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention. She helped launch Lexington’s affordable housing loan and grant program, and she has worked on a new diversion program for juvenile offenders. Last year Melissa Moore Murphy ran unsuccessfully for Circuit Court Judge.

She is a member of the Kentucky and Fayette County Bar Associations and the John Rowe Chapter of the National Bar Association, where she has served as President and Secretary. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center and GreenHouse17, and she is a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. She was a Distinguished Leader for the 2015-16 Commerce Lexington Leadership Lexington Class. She has served as an elected Parent representative on the Site-Based Decision Making Councils at Meadowthorpe Elementary, Lexington Traditional Magnet School, and Bryan Station High School. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Melissa Moore Murphy graduated from Atherton High School (in Louisville) where she was inducted into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame. She earned the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History in the Honors Program at the University of Kentucky. As an undergraduate, she was a UK Ambassador, an at-large representative to the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate, and a Justice and Chief Justice on the SGA Supreme Court. She was a Sullivan Award nominee, and a Doris Y. Wilkerson Award winner. She also earned her J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Melissa Moore Murphy is the mother of three children and she is the wife of Daniel P. Murphy, Jr. (“Danny”), the Assistant Dean of Community Engagement and Diversity at the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is an ordained minister at Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington, and is active in the Music Ministry as a Worship Leader.