She withstood

by Keisha Bell

Have you ever thought about how someone interprets life when societal norms change and doors once closed are then opened?

Meet Denise Lynn Nappier, a woman who made history at birth. Born June 16, 1951, she and her two siblings were the first set of triplets born at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford, Conn. This would not be the last time that Nappier would enter the history books.

In 1973, she graduated from Virginia State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1975, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Master of Arts degree in City Planning. 

Even at a young age, education was essential to her, but also was fighting for what she believed in. While a teenager, Nappier disapproved of her high school’s dress code ban of a trendy skirt-pant combination. Possibly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, she organized “Culottes Day” and protested. This demonstrated courage would be instrumental in her success. 

Nappier made history by becoming the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in the state of Connecticut when she was elected as state treasurer. This accomplishment was significant, not just for her but for generations to come. 

A Democrat, Nappier served in this capacity from 1999 to 2019. Obtaining this office was not easy; yet, she preserved. With this victory, she also became the first African-American woman elected to serve as state treasurer in the United States. 

Highly qualified, in December 1997, Nappier announced she would run for the Democratic nomination for State Treasurer of Connecticut. Although the race was close, she defeated Frank Lecce at the state’s Democratic convention. 

Understandably, Lecce was not happy about the results. He challenged Nappier for the nomination in a further primary challenge. Again, she won. She went on to secure the general election. 

In fact, her election was one of the closest races for State Treasurer in Connecticut’s state history. In 2011, Nappier was named to the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

Nappier’s victory is an example of progress. It represented opportunity and its availability for everyone. Although it had not happened before, the majority of voters could envision a woman, and more specifically, an African-American woman, as their state treasurer. It is a role where she would oversee billions of dollars in state funds, including the state’s retirement plans and trust funds. 

Keisha Bell

As a teenager, Nappier illustrated the courage to fight against what she thought was wrong. She used her voice to be heard. As an adult, she would use that same voice to make history and to be an advocate for tighter regulation of financial institutions, and separation between auditing and consulting firms. 

Her vision has allowed others to know that sometimes opportunities exist in hidden places. She withstood.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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