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Liz Byrd Collection Accessible at UW

March 2, 2016
woman with four children beside a classroom bulletin board
Liz Byrd teaches at a Cheyenne elementary school in 1967. (American Heritage Center Photo)

Documents and photos of Harriett Elizabeth “Liz” Byrd, the first African-American to serve in the Wyoming State Legislature, are now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center (AHC).

The AHC has digitized and made accessible online 795 photographs and documents from the Harriett Elizabeth Byrd family papers. The collection consists of files, photographs, awards, certificates and other memorabilia relating to Byrd's legislative and educational careers as well as her family.

Born in Cheyenne in 1926, Byrd graduated from Cheyenne High School in 1944. After graduating with a B.S. degree in education (1949) at West Virginia State College, Byrd returned to Wyoming and worked and taught at Fort F.E. Warren AFB for 10 years before gaining a teaching position with Laramie County School District 1. She taught elementary school for the next 27 years in Cheyenne and also earned a master’s degree in education from UW in 1976.

In 1980, Byrd was elected to the Wyoming State House of Representatives, the first African-American woman to ever serve in the Wyoming State Legislature. After serving eight years, she ran for and won election to the Wyoming State Senate in 1988, where she served four years.

Byrd was the prime sponsor of legislation to create Martin Luther King Jr./Wyoming Equality Day. After retiring from the Legislature, she remained active in the Cheyenne community along with her husband, James “Jim” W. Byrd, who was Cheyenne’s first African-American police chief.

Select material from this collection was digitized as part of a Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund Grant project to digitize materials that provide information about women in Wyoming government and politics.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the Harriett Elizabeth Byrd family papers can be found in the online finding aid at:

For more information, email or call (307) 766-3704.

The AHC is the university's repository of manuscripts, rare books and the university archives. It is among the largest and most prominent non-governmental repositories in the United States. The center contains the papers of many prominent elected officials in Wyoming's history.

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