Congresswoman Millender-McDonald dies at 68
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a six-term California Democrat whose House district covered much of southern Los Angeles from Compton to Long Beach, died of cancer Sunday. She was 68.
The former educator and Carson City Council member made history last year as the first black woman to head the rules-setting House Committee on Administration — a position known as the mayor of the House.
Her performance on transportation issues throughout her tenure resulted in her becoming a respected voice on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where she secured billions of dollars for her region and California. In 2005, she played a key role in the crafting and ultimate House passage of the six-year Transportation Reauthorization Act (TEA-LU), the largest public works legislation in our nation's history.
Millender-McDonald, who announced just last week that she was taking a leave of absence from her duties due to illness, died at her Carson home, succumbing to colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 7, 1938, Millender-McDonald moved to Carson, when she married Jim McDonald, and where they raised five children. She returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Redlands at the age of 40.
While working as an English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, she earned a master’s degree in education, allowing her to rise into the district’s administrative ranks.
She became active in politics in the 1980s, first as a campaign worker then as a member of the Democratic Central Committee. In 1990 she won a seat on the Carson City Council and two years later was elected to the state assembly.
In 1996 she emerged from a crowded special election ballot to win the House seat she held until her death.
A long-time proponent of gender equity issues, Millender-McDonald was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and was considered a front-runner for the job of Secretary of Transportation if John Kerry had been elected president in 2004.
She was a strong supporter of regional transportation issues, including the Alameda Corridor project, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and efforts to keep the C-17 production facility in Long Beach.
She is survived by her husband and five children.