LOS ANGELES – Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a seven-term congresswoman from Southern California, died late Saturday of cancer. She was 68.
Millender-McDonald died at her home in Carson, said her chief of staff, Bandele McQueen.
The congresswoman had asked for a four- to six-week leave of absence from the House last week to deal with her illness. McQueen couldn’t immediately provide details on what form of cancer Millender-McDonald had but said she had been receiving hospice care.
“Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The dignity with which she faced her illness was an indication of the determination with which she always served the people of her district.”
Millender-McDonald represented a heavily Democratic southern California district that includes Compton, Long Beach and parts of Los Angeles. This year she became the first black woman to chair the Committee on House Administration, which oversees operations of the House and federal election procedures.
“She was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly and honorably served her country for many years,” President Bush said in a statement. “We hold Rep. Millender-McDonald’s family, friends, staff, and constituents in our thoughts and prayers.”
Millender-McDonald is the second member of Congress to die this year of cancer. Republican Rep. Charles Norwood Jr., of Georgia, died in February after battling cancer and lung disease.
The congresswoman, a native of Birmingham, Ala., won her U.S. House seat in a 1996 special election and has recently worked on issues including election reform and opposing the genocide in Darfur. Under California election procedures, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.