A Tribute to Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald

Congresswoman Juanita Millender McDonald
Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald

Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald, Democrat of California, died late Saturday in Carson, Calif. She was 68. The cause was cancer, her chief of staff, Bandele McQueen said. Ms. Millender-McDonald was in her sixth full term representing the heavily Democratic 37th District in Southern California, which includes Compton, Long Beach and parts of Los Angeles.

Avoice and the CBCF recently celebrated Women’s History Month by unveiling an exhibit on the Avoice website in honor of the women of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congresswoman Millender McDonald was celebrated for her achievements, especially for being the first African American woman to chair the House Committee on Administration.

She was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 7, 1938. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands and a master’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles.

Ms. Millender-McDonald worked with Tom Bradley, the former Los Angeles mayor, on his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1982 and volunteered on other local campaigns before being elected to the Carson City Council in 1990.

She went on to serve in the California Assembly, and in March 1996 sought a seat in the United States House of Representatives in a special election to replace Representative Walter R. Tucker III.  She won that election, then won a full House term in November 1996. She was easily re-elected to succeeding terms.

Ms. Millender-McDonald recently worked on overhauling elections and opposing the genocide in Darfur.

She drew national attention in 1996 when she took the director of central intelligence, John M. Deutch, to the Watts district in Los Angeles to address the community after a newspaper report said profits from domestic sales of crack-cocaine were funneled to the C.I.A.-backed contras in Nicaragua.

Under California election procedures, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.

Ms. Millender-McDonald is survived by her husband, James McDonald Jr.; five children; and five grandchildren.

You can read a short biography of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald on the Women of the CBC page.

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