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A Black Congressional Pioneer Dies at 68
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A Black Congressional Pioneer Dies at 68

Remembrances

A Black Congressional Pioneer Dies at 68

A Black Congressional Pioneer Dies at 68
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Juanita Millender-McDonald, who was a pioneering member of the Congressional Black Caucus, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer. Farai Chideya remembers the first black woman to chair the House Administration Committee.

Farai Chideya, host:

We leave our regular Roundtable early to remember a pioneer of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Juanita Millender-McDonald chaired the House Administration Committee. She was the first African-American woman to ever do so. She died yesterday of cancer at the age of 68. Congressman Millender-McDonald represented much of South Los Angeles, what's known as the heart of the black community.

Her district included parts of Compton, Carson and Long Beach. She spent a decade in Congress and never shied away from a fight. The San Jose Mercury News published controversial reports that the CIA was using money from the crack cocaine trade to fund rebels in Nicaragua.

So the first-term congresswoman brought CIA director John Deutch to South L.A. for a tour and for a few pointed questions. Recently, Millender-McDonald fought to save the Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center, which have been plagued by a host of problems. Many of its facilities have been closed. In January, Millender-McDonald made the case for keeping intercity hospitals like King/Drew open.

(Soundbite of previous NPR broadcast)

Representative JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD (Democrat, California): Saving lives have always been the primary concern. We must continue to save lives. We must continue to provide health care, but quality health care, for those indigents who lived in the most impoverished area.

CHIDEYA: Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald served her constituents until the end. She only took a leave of absence last week to care for her health.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: Next on NEWS & NOTES, spreading peace in Iraq with yoga. And Darryl Littleton wonders why there are no black shock jocks.

CHIDEYA: You're listening to NEWS & NOTES from NPR News.

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