Obituary: Louvenia Dorsey Bright, 1941-2023 | Seven Days Vermont

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Obituary: Louvenia Dorsey Bright, 1941-2023 

First woman of color to serve in the Vermont State Legislature led the fight for race and gender equity, inclusion, and opportunity

Published September 11, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated September 11, 2023 at 12:10 p.m.

click to enlarge Louvenia Dorsey Bright - COURTESY
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  • Louvenia Dorsey Bright

Louvenia Dorsey Bright passed away peacefully on Saturday, July 29, 2023.

Louvenia was born to Emma Mae Lee and Harold Dorsey in Chicago, Ill., on November 21, 1941. She spent her early and teen years in Robbins, Ill., and Niles, Mich., respectively. She later moved to Detroit, where she graduated with honors from Detroit Eastern High School.

Louvenia graduated from Highland Park Junior College in Highland Park, Mich. She then became a school secretary in the Highland Park Public School District. In 1961, she began studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she majored in business education, graduating in 1965.

In 1963, she married Dr. William E. Bright II, and the two served from 1965 to 1967 in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, where she taught at Philippine Normal College in Manila.

Upon returning to the United States, she taught business education at Highland Park High School. She also returned to Wayne State University, earning a master’s in education in 1971. That same year, she and her family moved to Burlington, Vt.

In Vermont, Louvenia earned a certificate of advanced studies in education administration at the University of Vermont. She was also active in her community, teaching business education at Colchester High School and Burlington High School and serving in many leadership capacities, including as vice president of the Black Professionals Network of Vermont; as a gender/equity consultant to the Rural Education Center; and as a member of the Vermont State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Minority Women’s Business Partnership and the local NAACP chapter.

In 1988, she was elected to the Vermont State House of Representatives and served three terms, representing the city of South Burlington. She was the first African American woman — and, in fact, the first woman of color — to serve in the Vermont State Legislature.

As a state representative, Louvenia led the fight for race and gender equity, inclusion, and opportunity, serving as ranking member of the Health and Welfare Committee, where she stewarded passage of Vermont’s first Parental and Family Leave Act. She also served on the Government Operations Committee.

In 2021, local NAACP chapters in Vermont established the Bright Leadership Institute in her honor as a multistage training program for BIPOC Vermonters running for any level of public office or taking on community leadership roles. This fall, she will also be honored by Emerge Vermont with a lifetime achievement award for her political work in the state.

She was a member of the Burlington First United Methodist Church, serving in the church school and on the education commission.

In 1995, she retired and moved to Alexandria, Va. In 2011, she continued her retirement, with her husband, in Park Forest, Ill., where she was a faithful and active member of the Flossmoor Community Church.

Louvenia is survived by her husband of 60 years, Dr. William E. Bright II; her children, William E. Bright III, his spouse, Lauren Bright, and children Aaron and Erik; and Rebecca Louvenia Bright Pugh, her husband, Preston Pugh, and children Alexia and Kendyl. She is also survived by her siblings Carryle Kidder, Earl Dorsey and Nancy Gavin, as well as countless nieces and nephews. She is predeceased by her parents, Emma Mae Lee and Harold Dorsey, and siblings Cecelia Jackson, Sherryle Allen and Harold Dorsey.

Memorial services and charitable donations in honor of Louvenia’s memory will be announced at a later date.

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