Editorial: DeMarcus led the way
At a time when women were a rarity in politics except as an appendage ó “the wife of” ó Jamima DeMarcus forged her own trail into local government with grit and determination. She had plenty of both.
DeMarcus, who died last week at the age of 85, did not put her name on the China Grove and Rowan County ballots because she yearned to be in the spotlight. Rather, she saw a need in her hometown and her county for smart, progressive leaders, and she stepped up.
DeMarcus was what you might call the complete citizen. Her community involvement went well beyond politics. She devoted hours to many causes, including Girl Scouts, the South Rowan YMCA and state beautification efforts, not to mention her church. She was one of those people who seemed to have more than 24 hours in each day ó yet she was always prepared, always looking ahead.
She did it all with the support and encouragement of husband John, who had a strong role in the community as well. A onetime North Kannapolis police chief, he was long associated with Rowan County law and the China Grove community. John died in 1996 at the age of 76. They were a power couple long before anyone coined the phrase.
It would be nice to say many women have followed in DeMarcus’ footsteps, but that has not exactly been the case. She won election to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in 1982, and in the 27 years since then only two other women have sat on the commission, Leda Belk and Tina Hall. Not many women aspire to the job. But municipal government is another matter; many town boards have women on them now, and a few have female mayors.
Beverly Perdue might not be governor of North Carolina today if Jamima DeMarcus and other women like her across the state had not braved their way into political office and performed so well. DeMarcus helped move Rowan County and North Carolina forward.