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MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2007
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Congresswoman, 68, Birmingham native, succumbs to cancer

By Peter Prengaman
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES — Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a seven-term congresswoman from Southern California described as a trailblazer and a leader in election reform, died late Saturday of cancer. She was 68.

Millender-McDonald died at her home in Carson, said her chief of staff, Bandele McQueen.

The congresswoman had asked for a four- to six-week leave of absence from the House last week to deal with her illness. McQueen couldn’t immediately provide details on what form of cancer Millender-McDonald had, but said she had been receiving hospice care.

“Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The dignity with which she faced her illness was an indication of the determination with which she always served the people of her district.”

Millender-McDonald represented a heavily Democratic southern California district that includes Compton, Long Beach and parts of Los Angeles. This year she became the first black woman to chair the Committee on House Administration, which oversees operations of the House and federal election procedures.

“She was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly and honorably served her country for many years,” President Bush said in a statement. “We hold Rep. Millender-McDonald’s family, friends, staff, and constituents in our thoughts and prayers.”

“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.

The congresswoman, a native of Birmingham, 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.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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