Former city councilor Hill-Lawrence dead at 72


Lena Hill-Lawrence


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lena Hill-Lawrence, a former pastor and city councilwoman in Elizabeth City, died last week in Boston. She was 72.   

Hill-Lawrence died on Thursday, Aug. 31 due to natural causes, according to Brady Fallon Funeral Home and Cremation Service of Boston.

According to Hill-Lawrence's friends and colleagues in Elizabeth City, her health took a bad turn earlier this year and she moved to Boston to be with her children.

“It is a loss. … A lot of us are still trying to accept it,” said Hill-Lawrence’s friend Jackie Latson on Wednesday.

Latson and Hill-Lawrence's other friends knew she had moved for health reasons, but they had expected to see her again, Latson said. Citing the wishes of Hill-Lawrence’s family, Latson declined to discuss in detail the former councilwoman’s health issues.

Hill-Lawrence, a pastor at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and a retired business executive, served two terms representing Elizabeth City’s Fourth Ward from 2009 to 2013. She lost re-election in 2013 and 2015, but remained civically active with her participation in such groups as the Fourth Ward Quality of Life Community Organization that Latson leads.

Describing Hill-Lawrence as a dear friend and mentor, Latson described her as someone who saw community service — whether in government or not — as an extension of her faith.

“All of it was ministry” to Hill-Lawrence, Latson said.

Current members of City Council also remembered Hill-Lawrence on Wednesday as a person of good character who showed no shortage of candor.

Third Ward City Councilor Rickey King knew Hill-Lawrence both through city council and the Fourth Ward organization, whose meetings he often attends. He called her death “devastating.”

King said Hill-Lawrence was a very likable lady and praised her as “knowledgeable about the gospel.” Of her time on council, he said he most remembered her honesty.

Though Hill-Lawrence campaigned against both of them in the past, Fourth Ward Councilors Johnnie Walton and Darius Horton offered praise for Hill-Lawrence and condolences to her family. Walton described her as someone committed to others, and who stood by her beliefs. He noted they disagreed on some issues, but declined to detail them Wednesday.

Similarly, Horton said he's offered his condolences to the family, and, though he and Lawrence “definitely had political differences,” he said she was a “great preacher” who loved her community and God.

Notably, Hill-Lawrence lost her 2013 re-election bid when Horton and Montravias King, who has since left council, won the ward’s two council seats. 

Hill-Lawrence also didn't always agree with Third Ward Councilor Michael Brooks, but he said Wednesday he respected her as a minister and for putting her time and effort into elected office.

City councilors in the First and Second Wards also praised Hill-Lawrence on Wednesday. First Ward Councilor Jean Baker said “she will be missed,” calling Hill-Lawrence a generous, loving person.

First Ward Councilor Ray Donnelly said he and his wife were “saddened” by Hill-Lawrence’s death. He described the former councilwoman as a “well-educated, caring individual” who considered the entire city's interests while on council.

Second Ward City Councilor Tony Stimatz similarly praised Hill-Lawrence as a good, caring woman. She was also “no-nonsense” and didn't like “grandstanding,” he said.

Mayor Joe Peel also said he enjoyed working with Hill-Lawrence, and described her as forthright.

“She was not someone who would tell you one thing and do another,” he said.

Hill-Lawrence is survived by two sisters, Bettie Gomes, of Elizabeth City, and Doris Jones, of Raleigh, as well as a son and daughter.

Latson said there will be a local memorial service for Hill-Lawrence at St. James AME Zion Church, at 911 Park Street, on Saturday, Sept. 16, starting at 1 p.m.