When Sharon Weston Broome was in third grade in Chicago, a teacher named Mrs. Mobley told her class a civil rights story the mayor-president-elect has never forgotten during her decades in public office.
Mobley revealed she was the mother of Emmett Till, whose murder was a flash point in the civil rights movement. Till was abducted and brutally killed in 1955 after being accused of acting inappropriately with a white woman in Mississippi.
His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, asked for the casket to be open and to show his disfigured face during the funeral so the world could see "what they did to my baby." She recounted the story to Broome and hundreds of other children over the years at her public school on the Southside of Chicago.
"My parents always had that Jet Magazine with the cover of Emmett Till on it," Broome, 60, recalled. "That was kind of like a historical document that a lot of African-Americans had in their homes. Just hearing it firsthand from Mrs. Mobley was very significant."
Longtime political leader Sharon Weston Broome's nearly two years on the campaign trail paid…
The first elected female and second black mayor-president in East Baton Rouge Parish history, Broome continues to be passionate about civil rights. She talked about racial divisions and voiced concerns about police interactions with the black community as her campaign unfolded during a summer of protests. They were triggered by the fatal shooting in July of Alton Sterling by a police officer during a struggle outside a convenience store.
The divisions are a major wound Broome will try to heal as she is inaugurated Monday as mayor-president, remembering her upbringing in Chicago, the lessons she learned and the people who taught them to her.
Broome's parents, Lucy and Willie Weston Jr., grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana, respectively, and moved to Chicago as part of the great migration when black people across the South moved to other parts of the country. The Weston family lived and worked on the south side of Chicago, where their two-story home was always open to those trying to get back on their feet.
Her parents told her stories about their lives growing up in a time when opportunities were limited for black people like her father, who had completed only fourth grade. Broome recalls teachers and neighbors seeing potential in her and trying to give her opportunities to make a name for herself — one of her neighbors even paying for her to attend a communications camp in Indiana one summer when she was a teenager.
Broome loved English and history classes. She wanted to be the first in line to recite "If" by Rudyard Kipling, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution or whatever reading her class was required to memorize and deliver that day.
"Thank you, Reverend Weston," her teacher would tease after an impassioned performance.
She performed famous speeches when she competed on her high school's speech and debate team, including Eleanor Roosevelt's "United Nations as a Bridge" and later graduated as valedictorian of Unity Catholic High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and a master's in the subject from Regent University in Virginia.
An only child while she grew up, Broome was especially close to her parents and sees the parts in herself that she inherited from both of them. From her mother, a sense of humor and a love of being a matriarch. From her father, her courage and toughness, as he worked through recovering from a laryngectomy when she was just a baby and learned esophageal speech so he could communicate with his daughter.
Broome was 22 when her parents moved to Baton Rouge in search of warmer weather, and she joined them, figuring she could jump-start her career anywhere.
"I feel like my life has come full circle," Broome said. "I mean, who would have thought when I was visiting family here at the age of 7 years old that I would end up one day being the mayor-president of this city?"
She was a reporter at WBRZ for five years, became a Metro Council member in the late-1980s and started her term as a state representative in the Louisiana Legislature in 1992. She spent more than two decades there, becoming the pro tempore of both the House and Senate before deciding to run for East Baton Rouge Parish mayor.
Over Sharon Weston Broome's two decades in the state Legislature, she developed an interest …
But while Broome was thriving in her career and public life, she would come home each day to take care of her aging parents. Her private life was mostly focused on caring for them. Her mother died in 1991 while Broome was running for state representative and her father died in 1997.
Broome said she was always open to the idea of falling in love, dated and became accustomed to friends trying to set her up with people. But it was not until she was in her 40s, when she was visiting friends in College Station, Texas, one weekend, that met Marvin Broome.
He was recently widowed and trying to raise an 18-year-old, a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old when his wife died of cancer. The then-Sharon Weston and Marvin Broome spent the day together with friends, as she showed off her skills playing the piano and they got to know each other.
But she could tell he was still grieving and thought maybe he was not her type, while he marked down the date the they met and thought that she was the type of woman he would be interested in dating once his grief was not so fresh.
She visited friends in College Station a few months later, and Marvin Broome cooked salmon and brought some to her (his daughter attests that "it'll woo anyone"). She sent him a thank-you note after returning to Baton Rouge, and the two starting writing each other letters, talking on the phone and eventually visiting each other before marrying on March 6, 1999 — two days short of the one-year mark of the date they met.
The Red Stick has turned blue.
Broome decided to move his family to Baton Rouge to give them a fresh start.
It took adjustments on all ends. Sharon Weston Broome, who had been single for most of her adult life, was suddenly a wife and a mother to three children who had suffered a traumatic loss. She was not intimidated by the challenge, she said, but also needed to balance her public life and private life. They always tried to eat dinner together.
"For me, the fact that they had lost their mom was very significant," Broome said about becoming a mother. "And I knew that I couldn't quote, 'replace their mom'. But I could certainly be their mother … and so I never looked at them any other way than just my children. I love them just as if they were my biological children."
For Marvin Broome, his life as an anonymous college professor in a small town was over. Baton Rouge was the largest city he ever lived in. People recognized his wife, even when they picked up burgers in a McDonald's drive-thru and the staff crowded around to wave at her.
It took time, Marvin Broome said, but he learned to embrace the spotlight that his wife's career shone over their family.
"I came to realize how much her community loved her and that she was an asset, beyond that of my family," said Marvin Broome, who now teaches at LSU. "And so then it dawned on me that I had a treasure here that the African-American community embraced. And it became an honor then to walk next to her through this life."
Mayor-President-Elect Sharon Weston Broome said Thursday that she has started searching for replacements for two longtime fixtures of outgoing Mayor-President Kip Holden's administration.
Sharon Weston Broome's love for her kids was also immediately evident, said their daughter, Sarah Parker. Parker was a teenager when her dad married Sharon Weston Broome, but her new mom never referred to Parker or her brothers as "stepchildren."
Parker said Sharon Weston Broome us the epitome of grace and always has an uncanny ability to read her kids' minds. By the time Parker would confess something to her mom, Broome would already know.
And while Sharon Weston Broome was focused and full of energy, Parker said, Marvin Broome brought out a more laid-back side to her — helping her to relax with her favorite treats, including sparkling cider, popcorn and gummy bears.
Broome's public service also led to some early morning wake-up calls on weekends when Parker was attending University High School and trying to sleep in on weekends. She remembers how people would knock on the door of their Park Forest home at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to talk to Broome about something they wanted fixed in the district.
"She would just stand there in her robe, listen to their whole story. She would never turn them away," Parker said.
In August of 2016, the Broomes moved into Parker's house in the southeastern part of the parish after 18 inches of water rushed into their Park Forest home during Baton Rouge's devastating August floods.
It was the height of the campaign season, and Parker was watching the campaign unfold from inside City Hall, where Parker worked as a deputy clerk in East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's office.
Broome has also taken her 13-year-old granddaughter, Sydney, under her wing as her protégé, Parker said, while Parker's two younger sons — 9-year-old Sie and 4-year-old Satchel — are not quite as interested in politics yet. Parker is the only one of Broome's three children who lives in town; her brothers, Daniel and David, live in other states.
Broome's family ties run especially deep. She tears up thinking about some of her photos that have been damaged in the recent floods, especially of the maternal grandmother she never met.
Mayor-President-Elect Sharon Weston Broome's campaign team has announced plans for inaugurat…
But she said she's thankful for the family and friends who are traveling from across the country to watch her take her oath of office Monday evening. And after years of carrying others' stories with her — including that of Mrs. Mobley — Broome hopes she will become a part of the stories and memories that young people in Baton Rouge will carry with them.
"When I came to Baton Rouge, it was such a contrast. I always tell people I feel like I've had the best of both worlds," she said. "It was a whole different level of hospitality, a whole different level of authenticity that the people demonstrated here that really sealed the deal for me. And I never thought, one time, of going back to Chicago or moving anywhere else, for that matter."