Justin J. Pearson

Justin J. Pearson

District 86 State Representative, Tennessee General Assembly

Justin J. Pearson represents District 86 as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. District 86 is a sprawling area along the Mississippi River, spanning from south Memphis through downtown and north to Millington, TN. 

A community organizer and servant leader recognized for prioritizing the needs of the people, Pearson was elected to office January 24, 2023, at the age of 28, becoming the second youngest lawmaker serving in the Tennessee House of Representatives. When a mass shooter took the lives of six persons–three of them 9-year-olds–at The Covenant School in Nashville, TN March 27, 2023, Pearson, along with fellow state representatives Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson, staged a protest for common sense gun legislation on the Tennessee House floor. Republicans retaliated by expelling Pearson and Jones April 6, 2023. Local authorities in Memphis and Nashville reinstated the legislators several days later, Pearson on April 12. Pearson ran for the office again, handily winning back the seat Aug. 3, 2023, with nearly 94 percent of the vote.

Following his expulsion, President Joe Biden invited Pearson to the White House to discuss the need for common sense gun legislation. Pearson also appeared on numerous national news programs to appeal to the American people to protect kids, not guns with common sense gun safety legislation. 

A proud native Memphian, Pearson is the fourth son of five boys born to teenage parents. He graduated from Mitchell High School as valedictorian and attended Bowdoin College in Maine where he graduated in 2017 with degrees in both Government & Legal Studies and Education Studies. He later served as Special Assistant to the CEO at Year Up, a national workforce development non-profit in Boston, MA, that focuses on social, racial, and economic justice. During the pandemic, Pearson returned home to Memphis where he co-founded Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (MCAP), now known as Memphis Community Against Pollution. MCAP, through 2 Pearson’s leadership and the efforts of a coalition of residents and community organizations from across Memphis, successfully defeated a multi-billion dollar crude oil pipeline project that would have poisoned Memphis’s drinking water and stolen land from South Memphis residents. 

Pearson’s advocacy and leadership inspired The Sierra Club to recognize him as the 2023 National Changemaker of the Year and The Root to declare him as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans in 2022. Pearson is a devout Christian and tireless champion for justice. He is engaged to his partner in life and the struggle for justice, Oceana R. Gilliam of Los Angeles, California.