Dorothy Mae DeLavallade Taylor was the first African-American woman to serve in the Louisiana House of Representatives. From 1971 to 1980, she represented District 20, since renumbered, in her native New Orleans, Louisiana.
Taylor was the youngest of thirteen children born to Charles Henry and Mary Delavallade on August 10, 1928. She was educated in Orleans Parish Schools and attended Southern University at Baton Rouge. Her career in public service began after she married Johnny Taylor, Jr. in 1948. By the mid-1950s Taylor was a wife and mother and an active member of her children’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA). As president of the PTA during a time when segregation was still the norm in Orleans Parish Schools, Taylor demanded that the Orleans Parish School Board provide supplies for black schools equal to those given to white schools.
Taylor’s activism continued following the desegregation of the school system as she led efforts to desegregate the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) and to help black citizens register to vote.
Taylor’s first political office held was as Deputy Clerk in Civil District Court. In 1971, her familiarity with the community and their grassroots support helped her become the first Black woman elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. She is particularly known for her efforts while on the city council to desegregate the Mardi Gras organizations. Her proposed ordinance established jail time for officers of any club or krewe that discriminated on grounds of “race, gender, handicap or sexual orientation.” A federal judge declared that Taylor’s attempt to regulate membership policies of the krewes violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The final ordinance required krewe captains to sign an affidavit certifying that they are not discriminating as a condition for obtaining a parade permit. Taylor died in New Orleans eight days after her 72nd birthday.
Remembering Dorothy Mae Taylor: The First Lady of 1300 Perdido St.