DOTD holds dedication ceremony for State Rep. Pinkie Wilkerson Memorial Interchange
Friday, March 17, 2017 at 2:34:40 PM
Grambling, La. – Today, Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson participated in a dedication ceremony to name the State Representative Pinkie Wilkerson Memorial Interchange in Grambling. Two signs marking the location were unveiled at the event.

“We are proud to be here to officially name the I-20 interchange at LA 149 at Grambling in honor of former Louisiana State Rep. Pinkie C. Wilkerson,” said Dr. Wilson, who opened the ceremony.

Wilkerson was killed in a multi-vehicle accident on I-20 in Bossier City on August 1, 2000 as she sat in stopped traffic in an area that was under construction.

“She was only 52 years old,” Wilson added.

“She was different, she was special, unique in a thousand ways. She was passionate. She was ‘Grambling’ and we’ll miss her all the rest of our days,” said State Rep. Patrick Jefferson (D-District 11). “And instead of mourning the brevity and seemingly unfairness of her untimely demise, we celebrate Heaven’s gain. Her reach, touch, impact and indomitable spirit.”

Wilkerson represented District 11, which encompasses Lincoln Parish and parts of Bienville, Claiborne and Union Parishes. A Grambling attorney, she was first elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1992 and described as a ‘dedicated public servant.’

“We had a lot in common but I think the thing that I liked most about Pinkie Wilkerson was not the fact that she was a great orator or speaker, but that she was a great listener,” Sen. Jay Luneau (D-District 29). “She listened well at a time in the state legislature when there were not a lot of people listening.”

She was a graduate of Grambling State University Lab High School and Grambling State University. She earned a Master of Arts degree from Ohio University in Athens, a juris doctorate from Southern University, and an L.L.M. (Master of Laws degree) from Tulane University.

Wilkerson was the first and only female chair of the Louisiana Legislative Rural Caucus, elected to that position in 1997 and was still an active member at the time of her death. She made projects and issues affecting rural areas of the state one of her priorities.

“If there is anybody who is deserving of this honor, it is the former State Representative Pinkie Wilkerson,” said Grambling Mayor Edward Jones, “because she was a pioneer and advocate. And most of all she was an ambassador, not only for this community, but for this entire district.”

“Pinkie loved people. It didn’t matter who you were, if you were the Governor or the maid or whoever. She didn’t care. She treated everybody just the same,” recalls Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-District 33). “What a great spirit she was.”

Wilkerson's legislative focus included education and social issues. She launched the Youth Academy 2000, which provides opportunities for children to learn alongside professionals in such areas as science, computers, mathematics, medical, music, entrepreneurship and other life skills.

Wilkerson also made health a focus, and was active in awareness programs on diabetes, cancer, lupus, and heart disease. She introduced legislation to prohibit "drive-through mastectomies," to study the problem of providing prescription drugs to the indigent, and established an Incentive Award Program awarding parishes for reducing the drop-out and teen pregnancy rates.

“How fitting is it that her advocacy work to ensure that we have lights on this interchange now bears her name,” remarked Martin Lemelle, who spoke on behalf of Grambling State University President and former state Senator Rick Gallot. “She is a continual light for this community. It is a blessing to live but it is a great honor to leave a legacy and she has done just that.”

“I debated her death and tried to figure out what the meaning was, and I discovered that if you go down the interstate now and you see construction, what else do you always see,” said family representative Delores Smith. “You see the [Louisiana] State Police parked with their lights on signaling that there is construction and telling people to slow down. So I have concluded that Pinkie probably did a whole lot more in her death than she did in her life.”

Early in her legislative career, she passed legislation establishing a 24-hour statewide compulsive gamblers helpline, which also required the number to be placed in gambling establishments and on lottery tickets.

In 1993, she passed legislation authorizing courts to issue restraining and protective orders for abused parents. Additionally, in 1995 she passed legislation which includes grandparents and grandchildren within the coverage of the family violence programs related to community-based shelters for victims of family violence.

Prior to serving in the House, Wilkerson was an assistant district attorney and an assistant attorney general and also worked in the private sector. She was an Assistant Professor at Southern University Law School from 1981 to 1984.

DOTD Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson gives opening remarks at the ceremony.

A crowd of family, friends and colleagues of Pinkie Wilkerson gathers to mark the occasion.

DOTD Sec. Dr. Shawn Wilson presents Pinkie Wilkerson's family members with small versions of the
memorial sign.