Marie Colton, a former state representative from Asheville who rose to the number two position in the North Carolina House becoming the first woman to hold the position, died Tuesday at the age of 95. Her daughter Liz confirmed her mother's death to BPR.
Marie Colton was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978 and served in office for 16 years. In 1991, she was elected speaker pro tempore - becoming the first woman to hold the prestigious number two position in the chamber. Her husband Henry served on Asheville city council. He died in 2011.
Marie Colton was also an early supporter and advocate for public radio in Western North Carolina. She secured government grants to get what is now Blue Ridge Public Radio on stable financial footing. In the early 1980's BPR was WUNF, a 10-watt station located at UNC Asheville. Those grants helped the station first transition into WCQS. In March of 2017, WCQS formally launched its second channel and became Blue Ridge Public Radio. "Those grants were critical in the early life of this station," says BPR programming director Barbara Sayer. "There was very little advocacy for public radio in Western North Carolina at that time. She really championed it because she really wanted it and she cared about what people in Western North Carolina could hear."
Colton's funeral will be held next Saturday October 6th at 1 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asheville.