HomeLearning CenterSheila Oliver, New Jersey’s Trailblazing Lieutenant Governor, Has Died

Sheila Oliver, New Jersey’s Trailblazing Lieutenant Governor, Has Died

Originally published by Tracey Tully for the New York Times

Sheila Y. Oliver, New Jersey’s lieutenant governor and the first Black woman to hold statewide elected office there, died on Tuesday after being rushed to the hospital the day before. She was 71.

Ms. Oliver, a Democrat and longtime resident of East Orange, N.J., was elected lieutenant governor in 2017 as Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s running mate after serving for more than 15 years in the Legislature. In 2010, she became the first Black woman to lead the predominantly male State Assembly.

Ms. Oliver had been serving as acting governor of New Jersey since Mr. Murphy and his family left over the weekend for a vacation in Italy, where they own a home.

But she was taken to the hospital on Monday morning, according to state officials who provided no additional details; leadership responsibilities then shifted to the Senate president, Nick Scutari, as dictated by the State Constitution. Mr. Murphy will return to New Jersey within the next few days, a spokesman said.

Ms. Oliver’s family, in a statement released on Tuesday, said that she would be remembered for her “tireless efforts to uplift the community.” They did not provide a cause of death.

“We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey,” they said. “May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her.”

A chorus of condolences soon flooded in.

“When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word,” Mr. Murphy said in a statement.

“I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me,” he added. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

Ms. Oliver was active in the state chapter of Emerge America, a national organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, said Britnee N. Timberlake, a former program participant who took Ms. Oliver’s seat in the Assembly in 2018.

Back to News