ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A woman who broke barriers serving in the North Carolina legislature by ascending to a top leadership position has died.
State Rep. Marie Colton died Tuesday at an Asheville retirement community at age 95, her daughter told The Associated Press. Liz Colton said her mother died after a period of declining health.
Colton was a Democrat elected to the state House in 1978 and served there for 16 years. In 1991, she became the first woman elected speaker pro tempore — the chamber’s No. 2-ranked official.
The Asheville Citizen Times reports Colton pushed bills to decrease corporal punishment in schools, toughen billboard restrictions and require public art in state buildings. She arrived at the General Assembly during a time when legislative work was dominated by men.
“At the time she was there you really did feel like it was more of a man’s world,” current Democratic Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County said. “She was very determined to have a voice in the General Assembly and really about issues that were not being discussed openly.”
Colton met her husband, Henry, while they both attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a translator during World War II for the Army Signal Corps. Henry Colton served on the Asheville City Council before his wife went to the legislature. They were married 68 years before he died in 2011.
Partially because of her expertise in foreign languages, Marie Colton was appointed to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in the 1990s. She also was a national board member for Common Cause.
Her survivors included four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Liz Colton said.
The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asheville.