Rep. Lampkin of Monticello dies from cancer

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 208 views 

Rep. Sheilla Lampkin, D-Monticello, died Saturday, July 23, days after announcing that she would not run for re-election because of ovarian cancer.

Lampkin, 70, was serving her third term representing District 9 in the Arkansas House of Representatives, which encompasses most of Drew County and part of Ashley Country. She was vice-chair of the House Education Committee and also served on the Arkansas Legislative Council, Joint Advanced Communications and Information Technology Committee, and the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.

Her husband of almost five decades, Damon, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this past week that the family had learned she had cancer the week prior. She told the Advance Monticellonian newspaper that she would finish out the term and planned to have surgery and chemotherapy.

The Democratic Party of Arkansas is planning to host a special convention to choose another candidate, with the likely date to be Aug. 4, DPA spokesman H.L. Moody said. The Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday that those expressing an interest in the seat were former Rep. Johnnie Bolin, D-Crossett; Candace Jeffress, the wife of former state Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, D-Crossett; and Grant Pace of Monticello. Jim Hall is running as a Republican.

Lampkin was a retired teacher of 30 years, 20 of them in special education. She graduated from Dumas High School and earned a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

lampkinIn a video posted on the House of Representatives website, Lampkin said, “I just want to make a difference. I never had any kids. And I did teach 30 years, 20 in special ed, and I just kind of want to give back and maybe do something to make Arkansas a little better.”

She had been a volunteer museum director and had a strong interest in historic preservation “mostly because of the story. I love the story,” she said in the video. “I can’t get hooked up on details too much, but I love the story. It’s all exciting because history repeats itself and because we’re losing some of our history.”

House Speaker Jeremy Gilliam, R-Judsonia, released a statement saying, “During my first term in the House, I had the privilege of being assigned a seat in the chamber next to Rep. Lampkin. She became not just a colleague but a dear friend. I cannot count the number of times she brought gifts for my children and checked in with our family. … We all saw her shine most when she was able to share her love of public service with the students of Girls State every summer. Until the day of her death, she never stopped teaching life’s most important lessons … to listen, to serve, and to love.”

House Majority Leader Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, released a statement saying, ”Representative Lampkin was a legislator that led with her heart, always striving to do whatever she could to help people, and her compassion for children and families in her district set an example for every member of the General Assembly. She greeted everyone with a smile and always wanted to know how she could help. The people of Drew and Ashley Counties have lost a wonderful neighbor, the children of Arkansas have lost a dedicated advocate, and we’ve all lost a tremendous friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, wrote on Facebook, “Yesterday we lost a dear friend, colleague, and a woman committed to children like no other I’ve known. I first met Sheilla Lampkin at a dinner during our freshman orientation in December 2010. We neither one knew many people, I think we both felt more than a little out of place, and we struck up conversation. Within minutes, she felt like family, and I would come to think of her as another grandmother.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said from his Twitter account, “The passing of Rep. Sheilla Lampkin is a great loss for our state and for all who knew and loved her. Prayers for the Lampkin family.”