New Jersey’s Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver died last Tuesday after being rushed to the hospital the day before due to an undisclosed medical issue, ABC News reported.
The 71-year-old Lt. Governor was serving as acting governor while New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was on vacation. After she was rushed to the hospital, Nicholas Scutari, the president of the state Senate, took over as acting governor.
In a statement on Tuesday, Governor Murphy described Oliver as a “trailblazer” when he first selected her as his running mate in 2017. Murphy hailed the Democrat as the first black woman to serve as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, making her the second black woman in the country to lead a state house. The New Jersey governor said it was because of Oliver’s “decades of public service” that he chose her as “the ideal partner” to help him lead the state.
DNC Chairman Jamie Harrison said in a statement that he had been “devastated” by Oliver’s passing, saying that she best “exemplified” public service. Harrison also lauded Oliver’s “historic” role as the first black woman speaker in the New Jersey General Assembly, saying that she would be “greatly missed.”
Oliver, who attended Lincoln University and received an MS in Community Organizing from Columbia University, was the first black woman to win statewide office in New Jersey. She had been serving as Lt. Governor since January 2018, CNN reported.
Oliver was first elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 2003.
In announcing her death last Tuesday, Oliver’s family said she leaves behind “a legacy of dedication and inspiration.” Her family said she would be remembered for her “commitment to the people” and her efforts to lift up the community.
In a tweet last Tuesday, former Governor Chris Christie described her death as a “sad day” for the Garden State.
Calling Oliver a “great person and partner,” Christie said that he and Oliver “treated each other with respect and kindness” when she was the speaker during his first term as governor.