April 22, 2007

Rest In Peace: Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA)

There are so few African Americans serving in Congress that it is a national tragedy whenever we lose one. I imagine that I am more alert to the work of these brothers and sisters because my grandfather once represented the city of Detroit as their congressman. Therefore, it is with sadness that I learned that Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a seven-term congresswoman from southern California, died early today of cancer. She was 68.
The congresswoman had asked for a four- to six-week leave of absence from the House last week to deal with her illness. She represented a heavily Democratic southern California district that includes Compton, Long Beach and parts of Los Angeles.

"She was a champion for the consumer and fought injustice wherever she saw it. She always valued public service and served her state and nation with grace and honor," said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, who served with her in the California state Legislature.

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.

"Many of us are very saddened by her death, and in some respects stunned by it," said state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has worked with Millender-McDonald in different capacities for over two decades. "She knew about the issues of justice and injustice, and carried that banner wherever she went."

The congresswoman, a native of Birmingham, Ala., worked on former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's unsuccessful 1982 gubernatorial campaign and other local races as a volunteer before getting elected to the Carson City Council in 1990. She went on to serve in the California state Assembly, and in 1996 sought a U.S. House seat during a special election. She won a full House term in November 1996 and has subsequently won re-election easily.

Millender-McDonald has recently worked on issues including election reform and opposing the genocide in Darfur. She drew national attention in 1996 when she took then-CIA director John Deutch to Watts to address the community following a newspaper report alleging that profits from domestic sales of crack-cocaine were funneled to the CIA-backed Contras in Nicaragua.

This year, Millender-McDonald became chair of the Committee on House Administration, which oversees operations of the House and federal election procedures.

She is survived by her husband, James McDonald, Jr., and five adult children. At the end of the day, all of the accolades and honors don't matter much. It all comes down to family. I urge all villagers to keep her family in our prayers this week.


kweenkong said...

I hadn't heard about this. Thanks so much for posting. You're so right: We can't afford to lose even one 'bout it community servant. This changes the life dynamic for a lot of people, in its own wayl

Villager said...

kweenkong - Thank you for visiting with us here in the Electronic Village. I imagine that one of the roles of any blogger is to share information that isn't widely known. Take care, Villager

Native Son said...

God rest her soul.