Described by colleagues and constituents as a trailblazer for women, especially in politics, Bertha “B” Holt ’41 of Burlington has died. She was 93.
Holt, who died June 18, was active in area Democratic politics when she was appointed in 1975 to fill a vacant seat in the N.C. House for Alamance County and parts of nearby counties, the first woman to serve that area. Her constituents returned her to the House nine times, and she served until 1994. She was a recipient of UNC’s Distinguished Alumna Award in 1998.
Becky Mock, a longtime friend and director of the Women’s Resource Center of Alamance County, said in a June 21 article in The Burlington Times-News that Holt loved to talk politics, seeing it as a way to pursue the changes in which she believed. Tim McDowell, a lobbyist and former state legislator said in a June 18 article in the Times-News that “B” would rather argue politics than eat, even when she was hungry. A frequent speaker in her area, she often brought a three-legged stool with her to explain how the three branches of government worked.
Holt gained national attention when she helped repeal a ban on prosecuting marital rape. It passed overwhelmingly in both the N.C. House and N.C. Senate. The law was later amended and then taken off the books in 1993. During part of her tenure in the House, Holt was chair of the legislative women’s caucus. In 1995, she was a member of the delegation to the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. Other “firsts” came to Holt with her work in her Episcopal church: She was the first woman to serve on her church vestry and the first to serve on the bishop’s committee of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina.
She was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County — one of only six such centers in the state — which helps women and their families improve their lives. “The resource center wouldn’t have happened without Holt’s efforts and her example to others who started it and have kept it going,” said Mock in a Times-News story June 18.
When Holt entered UNC law school, she was the only woman in her class. After studying at UNC, she earned her degree from the University of Alabama’s law school.
She later worked in Washington, D.C., as an attorney for the IRS and then the Interior Department. She and her husband, the late W. Clary Holt ’38 (JD), married in 1946 and moved to Burlington.
She received an honorary doctorate from her undergraduate alma mater, Agnes Scott College, and was honored by more than 40 organizations. The Alamance County Democratic Party dedicated its headquarters in her honor.
While at UNC, she was a member of Pi Beta Phi.
— Sally Walters