The Lodge

A Time for Change

First female African-American Circuit Court Clerk has St. George’s connection

Ms.+Temiika+Gipson+poses+with+campaign+supporters.+Ms.+Gipson+credited+part+of+her+campaign+success+to+the+many+volunteers+that+helped.+
Ms. Temiika Gipson poses with campaign supporters. Ms. Gipson credited part of her campaign success to the many volunteers that helped.

Ms. Temiika Gipson poses with campaign supporters. Ms. Gipson credited part of her campaign success to the many volunteers that helped.

Photo: Photo Courtesy of Ms. Temiika Gipson

Photo: Photo Courtesy of Ms. Temiika Gipson

Ms. Temiika Gipson poses with campaign supporters. Ms. Gipson credited part of her campaign success to the many volunteers that helped.

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July 12, 2018 was the day Temiika Gipson realized things had changed. Her chances to win the race for Circuit Court Clerk rose dramatically after being endorsed by Memphis daily paper the Commercial Appeal.

“I felt the support of the community when I was endorsed by the Commercial Appeal,” Gipson said. “They realized that I was the more qualified candidate because of my experience working in this field of government.”

Ms. Temiika Gipson is not only junior Malaisyah Vann’s aunt; she is also the first female African-American Circuit Court Clerk in Shelby County.

While Vann was eager to support her aunt and participate in the campaign, she had some doubts about the election’s outcome.

“I hoped she would win, but I was a little afraid because people don’t really like change sometimes. They’re afraid of it,” Vann said, “but I had a feeling she would because my auntie has been working hard.”

Ms. Gipson’s new position of Circuit Court Clerk includes keeping records of various things, including criminal courts. She also ensures private documents, like search warrants, are safe.

Ms. Gipson’s journey with government started in Shelby County 25 years ago.

“I got into my first government position in Shelby County at the age of 20, and I have been working there ever since,” Ms. Gipson said.

Before Ms. Gipson’s campaign had started, she worked as a court operations specialist. She reached a point where she could either retire with a steady pension or start a campaign and run for Circuit Court Clerk. She decided to take the risk, and run against Tom Leatherwood, a current office holder.

“My campaign was not a huge campaign that had a ton of funding,” Ms. Gipson said. “When I first started my campaign, I had $50 put in it and then it soon grew to $2500.”

Ms. Gipson noted that Mr. Leatherwood was well-known politically, which can contribute to a candidate’s success, according to PolitiFact.

Vann only knew Ms. Gipson as her aunt, not a politician. However once Vann found out, she supported her aunt’s campaign. She and her five-year-old sister helped by handing out Ms. Gipson’s campaign flyers.

“We spent a number of weekends outside on corners and stuff holding up signs, getting people to vote, handing out pamphlets,” Vann said.

Ms. Gipson credits the success of her campaign to the many people who volunteered to help promote her. The large number of young volunteers were crucial for Ms. Gipson’s success

According to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 70 percent of today’s teens have volunteered for political events. Whether it’s for local elections, like Ms. Gipson’s, or a national movement like March for our Lives, teenagers seem increasingly politically active. Vann, and many other students at St. George’s, help contribute to that increase.

Vann is proud of her aunt’s success and hopes the government continues to become more diverse to better represent the diversity of the population.

“Being the first African-American woman to hold that position, I think she’s going to spark some talk,” Vann said. “Hopefully, get some more equality out there… More women in higher positions, more African Americans in positions. I think this is just the start of it.”

 

*A previous version of this story misstated Ms. Gipson’s title. She is the Circuit Court Clerk for Shelby County.

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