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Nevada Government & Politics
Contemporary Nevada

Bernice Mathews

Bernice Mathews was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1933.  She moved to Reno in the 1950s, a time when segregation and prejudice were frequent barriers in the lives of African-Americans.  Mathews believed that education was important, and in 1957 went back to school for training as a practical nurse.  While she worked as a practical nurse, and raised her family, she finished a bachelor degree in nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Mathews became involved in politics to attempt to correct some of the problems she found in her own neighborhood.  She was elected to the Reno City Council in 1991.  In 1995 she became the first African-American to serve as a State Senator in Nevada.

Actually, Mathews was also the first African-American to serve on the Reno City Council, but she doesn't think race is particularly important.  She has said, "If you wear race like a chip on your shoulder, someone is going to knock it off.  I push education.  Get qualified.  Whatever you want to be, be prepared to do it.  Study and work hard."

Mathews was concerned about crime, welfare reform, and education, among many other issues.  She has stated:  "Nothing can be a higher priority than educating our young people."  She has worked toward that goal.  An elementary school in Washoe County, Bernice Mathews Elementary, was named for her.

Photo Credit:
Nevada State Library and Archives