NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Monday marked the first day of a week-long scheduled celebration of life events for the late Tennessee Senator Thelma Harper.

The community members gathered for a visitation service at Shrader Lane Church of Life to pay their respects. Harper passed away on April 22nd at the age of 80.

"We have lost a wonderful, wonderful lady of Nashville," Gloria Bryson said.

Bryson said she had known the late senator since childhood. Bryson added Harper's father was her former pastor.

"I was a young girl in the church, and she was older than I was, but I have been around her all of my life," Bryson said. "And she was just so willing to help and serve the community."

The same sentiment is shared by many who came to say goodbye.

"She wasn't the kind of person who just sat and filled a seat. She was very active," Dr. Reva Chatman-Buckley said.

Chatman-Buckley said she knew Harper well and worked on several projects together.

"Worked on the centennial celebration for our 100th anniversary for Shrader lane. We worked on a historical piece about Shrader Lane's history," Chatman-Buckley added.

There wasn't a shortage of kind words to describe the late senator who was the first black woman elected to the Tennessee State Senate, and she served several years as a metro councilwoman. But, many said she was more than an official.

"She was just a brilliant lady that we loved dearly, and we will definitely miss her," Chatman-Buckley said.

"She was full of energy. She always had this energy about her and never met a stranger and just loving and kind. So that was special about senator Harper," Bryson said.

The Shrader Lane Church Of Life had several hats stands next to the late senator's casket. Hats were a signature for Harper.

"I don't think I ever saw her without her hat. I really don,'t but it's important," Chatman-Buckley, who wore a hat to the visitation, said. "We wanted to make a tribute to her. it was part of her style."

Later this week, Harper will be the first black woman to lie in state at the state capitol.

"I think she is very deserving. I think she is a pacesetter for the rest of us, and she is just a good role model for all of us black women here in Tennessee and the world. We certainly need to emulate her example," said Dr. Chatman-Buckley

"As a member of the Nashville community, I will always cherish the years we have had with Senator Harper," Bryson said.

News 4 asked Chatman-Buckley to describe the late senator in two words.

"I used three words, but that's how I would describe her. Brilliant, impactful, pacesetter," Dr. Reva Chatman-Buckley said. "I just want to encourage all of us to reach out to our community and make a difference. Let's not just sit and do nothing. Let's make a difference in this world just like Senator Harper did."

On Tuesday, Senator Harper will lie in state at Nashville Courthouse. On Wednesday, she will lie in state at the Tennessee State Capitol. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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