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As Xanthene Norris ends political career, her impact on Greenville continues

Xanthene Sayles Norris M’71 in her home. Photo by Nathaniel Cary, The Post and Courier.

Last updated January 25, 2023

By Tina Underwood, Contributing Writer

Nathaniel Cary of The Post and Courier takes a look back at the career of Furman University alumna Xanthene Sayles Norris M’71, civil rights activist, educator and public servant. Now 93, Norris is stepping away from her quarter-century post with Greenville County Council. Taking her place in District 23 is Alan Mitchell who has been on the receiving end of Norris’s counsel.

Before her stint with County Council, Norris taught French at segregated Sterling High School and later at Greenville High. She counts her time as an educator among her greatest accomplishments. Navigating desegregation while helping to organize lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations, Norris also crafted a college prep program administered through her church, Springfield Baptist.

Furman Director of Community Relations and State Representative Chandra Dillard remembers Norris’s impact as a Greenville High guidance counselor. “If she saw your potential, knew your interests, she’d do everything she could to kind of light the fire under those things,” Dillard said.

Not one to take “no” for an answer, according to City Councilwoman and Furman alumna Lillian Brock Flemming ’71 M’75 H’14, Norris was instrumental in making MLK Day a paid holiday in Greenville County, the last county in the nation to do so. Working with Dillard and Flemming, Norris pushed for a pedestrian bridge for the Southernside community, which became isolated from Greenville when the Hampton Avenue bridge was torn down. Fittingly, the Xanthene Sayles Norris Pedestrian Bridge spans railroad tracks connecting Southernside to the rest of Greenville and was opened in 2020.

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