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In 1965, Raylawni Branch became the first black student to ever attend the University of Southern Mississippi, and now she’s threatening to run for Congress in 2018.

The 76-year-old Civil Rights luminary made the suggestion at a town hall event on February 25th. Residents had organized the event for 4th District Congressman Steven Palazzo, who has not held an in-person town hall for constituents to ask questions since 2012. After Palazzo did not accept their invitation, they chose to hold a protest instead.

“If no one runs against Mr. Palazzo, then I will run,” Branch said to a crowd of around fifty people gathered outside Palazzo’s office in Downtown Hattiesburg. She criticized the Congressman for supporting laws that “hurt so many people.”

“Mr. Palazzo knows what’s right,” Branch said. “He just doesn’t do what’s right because he’s listening to a man who is not very bright.”

Branch urged attendees to support whoever runs against Palazzo.

“Don’t do like some people I know who go to church and put their money where their hearts are not supposed to be,” she said.

Branch, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who volunteers at the American Red Cross, took a moment to speak out on an issue close to her heart.

“I am a healthcare person and every single day volunteering with the American Red Cross, I cry because there are many people who walk into our office on Hardy Street without any healthcare,” she said. “I’m a veteran and I’m a retired veteran. And I’m hoping that the orange-haired person up there in the White House doesn’t decide to take away veteran’s healthcare. But we know there are many veterans who are not being cared for properly.”

The event wasn’t Branch’s first time speaking out in front of Palazzo’s office. In 2013, local Tea Party activists staged a similar town hall event for Palazzo (the congressman chose to ignore that invitation as well).

Halfway through the Tea Party protest, Branch showed up and challenged the Tea Party leaders who were present on their positions on healthcare. You can see a video of that here.


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