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US Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald Dies of Cancer

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When Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald began a six-week leave of absence Wednesday after being diagnosed with cancer, no one expect that Sunday there would be obituaries being written for the seven-term congresswoman.

Rep. Millender-McDonald, the first African American woman to head the House Administration Committee, easily won her district (California's 37th congressional district) in last year's election by 82%. She lobbied to ban smoking in the Speaker's Lobby off the House floor, a request that was supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and she was recognized by a UC study as being "one of the five most effective Members of Congress" due to her ability to work in a bipartisan manner.

Speaker Pelosi said this about Millender-McDonald in a statement today:

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As the first African American woman to chair a committee in Congress, Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country. She was a strong defender of the right of every eligible voter to have full access to the polls, and a tireless proponent of a fair election process that ensured that every vote would be counted.

President Bush had this to say:

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald of California. She was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly and honorably served her country for many years. We hold Rep. Millender-McDonald's family, friends, staff, and constituents in our thoughts and prayers.

The 37th is composed of large sections of Long Beach, Signal Hill, Compton and Carson. She died in her home in Carson. She was 68. AP photo