She died almost 60 years ago, but her cells lived on, fostering medical breakthroughs and saving lives. On Tuesday, Henrietta Lacks was honored by the Virginia General Assembly.
Two of her sons and two granddaughters stood in the gallery of the House of Delegates as state lawmakers applauded.
"I ask that when we adjourn today, we do so in the honor of Henrietta Lacks, daughter of the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Hampton Delegate Jeion Ward.
Lacks was born in Roanoke, and raised in Halifax County. She was 30 years old, living in Baltimore, when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Her cells, which were taken without her knowledge, have become one of the most important tools in medicine, the first immortal cells grown in culture," Delegate Ward told reporters. "And over 60 years following her death they are still alive."
The story that Ward shared at a news conference is detailed in Rebecca Skloot’s bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Members of Lacks family say they have been overwhelmed by the response to the book, and the latest recognition.
"For me and my family, we thank you all for this," said Henrietta Lacks' son David Lacks.
It’s extraordinary, it’s a miracle, It’s incredible," said granddaughter Kimberly Lacks. "I’m just happy that I’m part of this legacy."
Representatives of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine also joined the family in Richmond.
"It’s taken too long for Johns Hopkins to recognize the contribution of Mrs. Henrietta Lacks," said Johns Hopkins Vice Dean Daniel Ford. "And we are glad for the opportunity to change this."
Ward said every member of the General Assembly signed on as a co-patron of the resolution honoring Lacks.