NJ Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver, Dead at 71

(VitalNews.org) – The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, Sheila Oliver, died this week while filling in for Governor Phil Murphy, who announced her death on Tuesday alongside Oliver’s family.

The 71-year-old died on Tuesday, August 1st, after being taken to the hospital on Monday. During this time, she was standing in for Murphy as acting governor while he was on vacation with his family in Italy.

Oliver went down in New Jersey and American history as the first black woman to become Speaker of the Garden State’s General Assembly and the second black woman to serve as leader of any state legislature.

Murphy said in a statement that when he selected Oliver in 2017 to be his running mate, she “was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word.” Murphy said he “knew then” that she would be “the ideal partner” in leading New Jersey because of her “decades of public service.” The governor said it was the “best decision” he ever made.

Oliver’s family also issued a statement and described her as “a distinguished public servant” and a “cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”

Friends and colleagues throughout the Garden State and the rest of the country shared messages of mourning and condolences after the news broke. Attorney General Matt Platkin described Oliver as “fearless” and “brilliant.”

She was described as “a pioneer in public service” who paved the way “for so many women” by New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, who also called her “compassionate” and an “accomplished legislator.”

Oliver was hospitalized on Monday for an undisclosed medical condition, and her cause of death has yet to be shared with the public.

Murphy is now cutting his vacation short after the lieutenant governor’s death and heading back early to resume gubernatorial duties, relieving Nicholas Scutari, the Democratic Senate President who serves as acting governor according to the New Jersey constitution in such a situation.

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