Sheila Oliver, the first woman and first African American to serve as lieutenant governor of New Jersey, died on Wednesday at the age of 71.
Oliver’s death was announced by Governor Phil Murphy, who said that she had passed away “peacefully” after a long illness.
“Sheila was a trailblazing leader who broke down barriers and made history,” Murphy said in a statement. “She was a force for good in our state and her legacy will live on.”
Oliver was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1951. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and a law degree from Rutgers University.
She began her political career in the early 1990s, serving as a member of the New Jersey Assembly. In 2006, she was elected to the New Jersey Senate, where she served for eight years.
In 2014, Oliver was elected lieutenant governor of New Jersey. She served in that role until her death.
Oliver was a passionate advocate for social justice and economic equity. She was a strong supporter of public education and affordable housing. She was also a champion for women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.
Oliver’s death is a loss for New Jersey and for the nation. She was a dedicated public servant who made a real difference in the lives of countless people. She will be remembered as a trailblazing leader who paved the way for others.
A funeral service for Oliver will be held on Saturday, August 5, at 11:00 AM at the First Baptist Church in Newark. The service will be open to the public.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Sheila Oliver Scholarship Fund at Seton Hall University.