Herschella Horton graduated from Lawrenceville Township High School in 1957 in Lawrenceville, Illinois. In 1960, she completed the nursing program at St. Mary's Hospital School of Nursing in Evansville, Indiana, with her R.N.
In 1965 she relocated to Tucson. Since that move she has worked with many hospitals and research centers in Southern Arizona. Additionally she published seven peer-reviewed scientific articles between 1975 and 1979 on subjects ranging from contraception to bypass surgeries to addiction. In the early ÌÇ70s, Herschella was the Coordinator of Clinical Research Center in the Surgical Department at University Medical Center in Tucson. She also worked with the American Medical Women's Association.
Herschella received her Bachelor of Arts in Management from the University of Phoenix in Tucson in 1987. In the early ÌÇ90s, she began volunteering with a city task force on labor issues and grievances. It was during this time that the Democratic Party was seeking a strong candidate for the District 14 Representative seat in Tucson; they approached Herschella to run. In 1990 she was elected to the Arizona State Legislature.
During her ten-year tenure at the state capitol, she served as the Democratic Whip (1997-98) and the Assistant Democratic Leader (1999-2001); additionally she was the ranking member of the Health Committee, as well as a member of the Environment, Appropriations, Block Grants, and Rules Committees. She often worked with the Governor's Office and various state agencies in an effort to better understand the needs and issues that confronted them and drafted legislation and amendments on their behalf. In 1994, Herschella was named Legislator of the Year by the Maricopa Mental Health Association and Arizona Association of Home and Housing for the Aging; that year she was also honored as Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers. The following year, she received the Tucson (National Organization for Women) Woman of Courage Award and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Award.
Governor Janet Napolitano, in 2003, named Herschella Horton to the high-ranking position of Director of Legislative Services with the Arizona Department of Economic Security. In this position, she directs the office which advises the agency's management on legislation that affects the agency and is the chief spokesperson on legislative issues for the department. According to the DES website, 'She is responsible for analyzing existing federal and state laws, to determine their impact on [DES], makes recommendations for changes in state laws, drafts legislations and amendments, and arranges for its introduction in the House or the Senate.' She also reviews current legislation to determine what, if any, impact it may have on the agency.
Despite her busy career, Herschella has also been active in many professional and civic organizations. A few of them include the United Way, the National Order of Women Legislators, La Paloma Family Services, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Southern Arizona Child Advocacy Center, the National Conference of State Legislators, and the Sunstone Cancer Foundation. She was presented the Award in Recognition of Leadership and Vision for America's Future by the Greater Tucson Economic Council.
Herschella Horton is a woman full of energy and life; she loves to be busy and wants to be challenged. She enjoys her work with DESÌ_she works long hours at their offices in Phoenix on the weekdays then drives back home to Tucson for the weekends. One Saturday each month she works at Canyon Ranch as a certified Healing Touch practitioner, but the majority of her time on the weekends is spent with friends and family. She also makes time for groups she has given time and money to; for example she makes it a point to go to AIDS walks.
Her dear friend Sharon Foltz said, 'Herschella has volunteered for so many organization and done so many thingsÌÐ There have been many times when she is the only African American in the room or at the table. She has been asked why she was not part of the Urban League and responded that the Urban League has great representation. She wants to be at the table where a diverse perspective is needed.' Foltz also noted Herschella's open and obvious spirituality, as well as her sympathy and empathy for othersÌ_among those who know her she is one that people turn to in times of pain. 'She is a hugger, she always hugs people. It was something she was known for in the legislature and now. She is someone who will give you a hug because you look like you need one.'
Written By: Virginia F. Holmes