State Electoral College includes Burnsville woman

Minnesota Electoral College electors Lucy Buckner, left, of Burnsville, and Jettie Ann Hill of Minneapolis sign documents in officially casting their votes for Barack Obama as president and Joe Biden as vice president. The ceremony took place Monday, Dec. 17, at the state Capitol. Photo by Howard Lestrud

Elector Buckner marched on Washington in ’63

Lucy Buckner has come full circle, as she likes to say — from the March on Washington in 1963 to the Minnesota Capitol rotunda in 2012.

The Burnsville resident, who marched as a teenager nearly 50 years ago, was one of 10 presidential electors assembled at the Capitol on Dec. 17 to cast Minnesota’s ballots in the Electoral College.

The electors, all DFLers who ran for their posts and were selected through their party’s convention system, each cast public ballots for Barack Obama as president and Joe Biden as vice president.

It was a chance to make history and to do something different in politics after decades of Democratic activism, said Buckner, 67.

She was an Obama delegate at both of his winning Democratic National Conventions. The thrill isn’t gone for Buckner as Obama approaches inauguration to a second term.

“Oh, my goodness, I’m still filled with that,” Buckner said hours after returning from the Electoral College ceremony. “And I’m still 110 percent supportive of President Obama.”

Raised in Akron, Ohio, Buckner was just out of high school when she and a friend drove to D.C. for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“It was during the days of the Afro hairstyle, and I wore a wig,” Buckner recalled, laughing at the memory. “And that was not the place to wear a wig — not during those days and not at a civil rights event.”

Buckner went on to work for the Ohio Bell Telephone Co. and later Xerox Corp., where she was the first African-American woman customer representative for the Akron-Cleveland territory and served on a board to recruit minority employees.

Buckner also broke racial and gender ground, she said, when she founded a hardwood pallet company in Atlanta, Ga.

She was a delegate to the 1980 Democratic National Convention. “I was campaigning for Walter Mondale and President Carter and Walter Mondale had been to my home in Ohio,” Buckner said. “I took him through my neighborhood.”

While living in Atlanta, she witnessed the 1986 Democratic congressional nomination battle between civil rights heroes Julian Bond and Rep. John Lewis.

“Congressman Lewis got in,” Buckner said. “He and I were very close because we went to the same church. That kept me in the political arena when I moved to Georgia.”

Buckner came to Minnesota in 2005 and to Burnsville in 2011. She serves as affirmative action officer for the 2nd Congressional District DFL Party organization.

Her loyalty to Obama is unbowed. Even among the DFL electors, there was a little second-guessing of the president during a pre-vote meeting on Dec. 17, Buckner said.

“Don’t just stand here and say what he hasn’t done,” she said. “He didn’t make those kinds of promises. He said he would do his best.”

Charlie Thomas of Lakeville was an alternate elector.