The first Bulldog in Congress was Juanita Millender-McDonald ‘81—a California Democrat, seven-term U.S. representative and the first black woman to chair a standing congressional panel. She used her seat to speak out against genocide and work on issues around human trafficking, drug abuse, health, job training, education and women’s rights.
After being elected the first black councilperson in the City of Carson, Millender-McDonald was elected to the California State Assembly in 1992 and then as U.S. Representative in the 37th Congressional District in 1996. She served as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and on the House Committee on Small Business and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She also co-chaired the Democratic Caucus for Women’s Issues and was the first black woman to chair the Committee on House Administration, which oversees operations of the House and federal election procedures.
Millender-McDonald drew national attention in 1996 when she took John M. Deutch, then director of central intelligence, to the Watts district in Los Angeles to address the community after a newspaper reported that profits from domestic sales of crack-cocaine were being funneled to the C.I.A.-backed contras in Nicaragua.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Millender-McDonald earned her undergraduate degree in business at Redlands. She earned a master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Los Angeles and worked toward a doctorate degree at University of Southern California.
Before entering the political arena, Millender-McDonald worked as a teacher and editor-writer for the Los Angeles Unified School District and later was appointed director of gender-equity programs there. She received national recognition for her work serving on the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and was named in Ebony magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans. She died of cancer in 2007 at age 68.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Associated Press, “Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country.”
This article was sourced through Washington Post online, Associated Press, history.house.gov, New York Times.