Archives On The Air 72: The Early Byrd—First African American In Wyoming State Senate

Oct 23, 2018

Harriet Elizabeth Byrd and her husband James W. Byrd (the first African American chief of police in WY.), Various dates. Box 10, Harriet Elizabeth Byrd Family papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

Harriett Elizabeth Byrd was an African American woman born in Cheyenne. She graduated from West Virginia State College in 1949 and was an elementary school teacher in Cheyenne for 27 years.

Byrd was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1980. She was the first African American legislator in Wyoming. Byrd served in the State House for 8 years.

In 1988 Byrd won election to the Wyoming Senate and served for 4 years.

Byrd was the primary sponsor of the legislation that created Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Wyoming. She fought to ratify the holiday for 9 years. Martin Luther King Jr Day was in ratified in the state in 1990 with Wyoming Equality Day added to the title.

Learn more about Byrd’s contributions to Wyoming in the Harriett Elizabeth Byrd family papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.