Sheila Oliver, the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and only the second Black woman to lead any state legislature, died on Tuesday at the age of 71.
Oliver had been filling in as acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was out of the state on a family vacation in Italy. On Monday, she was taken to a hospital for an undisclosed medical issue.
Governor Sheila Oliver’s cause of death
The cause of death has not been released.
Oliver was a lifelong public servant, having served in the New Jersey Assembly for 14 years before being elected Speaker in 2010. She was also the first Black woman to serve as the Democratic leader of the Assembly.
In 2017, Oliver was elected lieutenant governor on Murphy’s ticket. She was the first Black woman to hold that office in New Jersey.
“When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lt. Gov. Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word,” Murphy said in a statement. “I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me to lead the State of New Jersey. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Oliver’s death is a major loss for New Jersey and for the country. She was a trailblazer and a role model for many, and her legacy will continue to inspire for years to come.