Hilda Hutchinson Jefferson, a former Charleston city councilwoman and community activist, died Sunday at the age of 93.
Jefferson had served on council from 1975-98, a career spanning some 23 years. She became a highly visible community leader afterward.
Jefferson previously was selected as S.C. Home Economics Teacher of the Year.
"She was a stern person, but she was a person dedicated to the city of Charleston," said current Councilman Robert Mitchell, who followed her in representing the city's District 4 seat.
Jefferson was a retired schoolteacher. She was also a staple at the city Christmas party, Mitchell said, and worked tirelessly to help children.
Mayor Joe Riley said the community has "lost a most wonderful public servant and an extraordinarily kind, civic-minded person."
He praised her service on council where she served as mayor pro tem, and afterward, calling her "one of the most generous people I've ever known."
Jefferson is credited with creating the annual Christmas party for city employees and their families, working on the effort year-round and personally soliciting donations for gifts for the children.
"Usually at the party, there would be 40 to 50 bicycles that would be given away, many other presents for the children and a wonderful meal to share with the city family," Riley said. "Many children of employees of our fine Environmental Services Division and other departments had a special Christmas because of Mrs. Jefferson."
Riley said the Christmas party will continue in her honor.
Charleston Democrats honored her in 2010 at the Blue Jamboree as an inaugural recipient of the Marjorie Amos-Frazier Pacesetter Award for lasting civic and humanitarian contributions.
Brady Quirk-Garvan, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said in a statement: "We mourn the loss of this great leader in Charleston. We know that her spirit will live on in all of us as we fight for justice as Hilda Jefferson did all of her life."