Elizabeth Patterson, 78, S. Carolina’s First Woman Elected to House, Dies

Elizabeth Patterson, the first woman elected to represent South Carolina in the House of Representatives, and the last one to date, died on Saturday at her home in Spartanburg, S.C. She was 78.

Her husband, Dwight Patterson, said the cause was polycythemia vera, a form of blood cancer.

Ms. Patterson, a centrist Democrat and the daughter of the former South Carolina governor and senator Olin D. Johnston, was first elected to represent South Carolina’s conservative-leaning 4th District in 1986. She narrowly defeated the Republican nominee, William D. Workman III, whose father had once run against her father for the Senate. The district is in the northwest part of the state, surrounding Spartanburg.

Several women had represented South Carolina in the House before Ms. Patterson, but she was the first to win an election for a seat; the others finished the terms of husbands who had died in office.

Ms. Patterson served three terms in the House, during which she sat on the Veterans’ Affairs, Banking and Finance and Urban Affairs Committees as well as the Select Committee on Hunger. She was re-elected twice but lost to the Republican Bob Inglis in 1992; her defeat was an outlier in an election that Democrats dominated.

Notable Deaths 2018: Politics and Public Affairs

A memorial to those who lost their lives in 2018

No other woman has represented a South Carolina district in the House since Ms. Patterson left office.

Gladys Elizabeth Johnston, who went by Elizabeth, was born on Nov. 18, 1939, in Columbia, S.C. Her mother was Gladys (Atkinson) Johnston. Elizabeth mostly grew up mostly in Washington but graduated from high school in Spartanburg in 1957.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Columbia in 1961, then studied political science at the University of South Carolina, also in Columbia. She married Dwight Patterson in 1967.

Ms. Patterson worked for the Peace Corps and served on the Spartanburg County Council and in the South Carolina State Senate before she was elected to the House. After leaving Congress in 1993 she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1994 and taught political science at Spartanburg Methodist College.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Catherine Gramling; two sons, Pat and Olin; a sister, Sallie Scott; and four grandchildren.

The New York Times contributed reporting.

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