FARAI CHIDEYA, host: From NPR News this is News and Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.
Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones died yesterday from a brain aneurysm. She was just 58 years old. She was the first black woman to represent Ohio in the U.S. Congress. Fellow congressman from Ohio DennisKucinich calls her passing an incalculable loss. The Clinton family released a statement calling her a one-woman force for progress. We've got a Democratic member of Congress with us to remember the woman he worked side by side with. Congressman JamesClyburn represents South Carolina's Sixth District. Welcome.
Representative JAMES CLYBURN (Democrat, South Carolina): Thank you so much for having me.
CHIDEYA: So, let's talk a little bit about what she meant to you. We're going to talk more about leadership positions that you have, and that she had. But what was she like to work with, first of all? What kind of person was she?
Representative CLYBURN: She was just an excellent person. I just spent the weekend with her. In fact, on Sunday as we were leaving Mississippi to go back to our respected places, she was the last person I talked to. We hugged. She was very cheerful. All of this is just absolutely a complete shock. I met her before she came to Congress when her predecessor brought her to Washington. I was about to become chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. We met on that occasion, and we became fast friends. In fact, in the leadership positions that I've run for, Stephanie was always my fellow. She was the one person that no matter what you're doing, running for office or just sitting down to Bid Whist, you would always want her on your side. Very tenacious, very vivacious, a cheerful person, tremendously upbeat. The only time I have ever have seen her down had to do when she experienced the unexpected death of her husband, and to watch her interact with her parents, her mother and father before they passed, was just a real, real cheerful occasion.
CHIDEYA: Well, let me bring in Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She represents California's 35th District, and thank you for coming on. I just want to reference that Congressman Clyburn said that he would want her on his side doing Bid Whist. And that's, you know, playing cards is something that is not the first thing in my mind because I didn't know CongresswomanTubbs Jones. But I'll ask you the same question. What was she like as a person, both in work and out of work?
Representative MAXINE WATERS (Democrat, California): Well, first of all, as a member of Congress and a colleague, she was very talented. She was a lawyer. She had been a judge, a prosecuting attorney, and she brought all of those skills and talent with her, of course, to the Congress of the United States where they have been well utilized. As you know the first African-American woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, and the first African- American maybe, and certainly the first African-American woman to head the Ethics Committee. Herlawyering skills were quite evident. As a matter of fact, just before we broke for this district period, work period, I had been in consultation with her about an event that I am putting on at the Democratic National Convention. The ethics laws are very tough, and members of Congress have to relate not only to the ethics concerns, but also we have our House rules, and we have campaign finance reform laws, and all of that must be dealt with before you can even approach doing any event. So, Stephanie and I were in long conversations about how to do this event that I'm doing and be in compliance. And so I have a real appreciation for her legal skills and her terrific legal mind.
Yes, she was a cheerful and joyful person. She was a well-rounded person. Not only was she a good public policy maker and legislature, she did know how to have fun, and she enjoyed herself. She's had some wonderful moments in the Congress of the United States and, you know, she is a very loyal and tenacious person. She was in support of Hillary Clinton, and of course there was criticism, but she was not only steadfast in her support, she was able to articulate in a very, very wonderful way why she was supporting her, and what that meant, and why she thought it was important. And so if there was anyone who was meant to be a leader, a public policy maker, someone that could not only serve and serve her district well, but someone who could serve well nationally on any of the public policy issues that we're involved with.
CHIDEYA: Well, Congressman, we just heard a bit more about what she has done and her style of leadership. You certainly have a huge position being the House majority whip. She also, as we mentioned, chaired the Ethics Committee, sat on Ways and Means. She also had another role in the 2004 election. President Bush narrowly beat out John Kerry in Ohio, and the election process was roiled in controversy. Now, CongresswomanTubbs Jones lodged a formal objection to the certification of Ohio's presidential election votes. Let us hear her speaking on the floor of Congress in January 2005.
(Soundbite of Congressional presentation)
Representative TUBBS JONES (Democrat, Ohio): Unfortunately, objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate avenue to bring these issues to light. While some have called our cause foolish, I can assure you that my parents Mary and AndrewTubbs did not raise any fools. They raised a lawyer. They raised a former judge. They raised a prosecutor, and thank God they lived to see me to serve as a member of the House of Representatives.
CHIDEYA: Congressman, what do you think that moment in her life, and in the country's life, meant not just to her, but to the people of her district and the people of the nation?
Representative CLYBURN: Well, she was very emotional about that election. I campaigned for days in Ohio with her in that election, and she was very upset when rules were changed. I was with her when the secretary of state in Ohio came out with a ruling that everybody knew would have adverse impact on voters. She was very emotional about that, and as we traveled around the state she never missed an opportunity to let her distaste for his position known, that is the secretary of state there in Ohio. So, when the elections were over it was very clear that Ohio - the vote in Ohio was a vote that made a difference in the loss. And so her going to the floor and arguing against those electoral votes was an extension of what she had been arguing in the run up to the election. But she was not the only one. People all across this country had real serious considerations about what the secretary of state was doing in Ohio.
CHIDEYA: Congresswoman, she is someone who had certain issues that really were dear to her heart, and one of them was dealing with housing. She introduced the Predatory Mortgage Lending Practices Reduction Act of 2007. Tell us a little bit about that, and her focus on housing and economic issues.
Representative WATERS: She served for a short period of time on the Financial Services Committee that handles, you know, all of banking and HUD and housing and all of those issues. And she was very concerned about predatory lending, and was looking for a way by which to basically stop the banks and lending institutions from extending loans where they were charging exorbitant amounts of interest, where they had all kind of penalties that were causing minority communities in particular to pay more for their mortgages, and to be in a foreclosure posture because of the mortgages that they were being enticed into.
As a matter of fact, it was Stephanie Tubbs Jones who invited me to her district, to a town hall meeting, almost three years ago on the predatory lending issue. The boarded up homes and neighborhoods of Cleveland had began to be a real issue. And there was a town hall meeting where people were trying to find out why so many homes were being boarded up, why they were being foreclosed on, and they let us know at that time that they were causing the property values to go down, and causing the neighborhood to be blighted.
As a matter of fact, I went back to Ohio and held a hearing as the chair of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity just a few weeks ago, because of Stephanie's request for me to come, where I helped to forge the housing legislation based on the experiences of Cleveland, and east Cleveland, and the communities all around there that were experiencing some of the worst foreclosures in the country. So, Stephanie had a hand in dealing with housing issues, and introduce legislation to try and stop predatory lending.
CHIDEYA: Well, I just want to say that we have a few more moments that we want to look at with her, including the fact that she has been a real friend to our show, and we've spoken to her several times, particularly during one of the series we did on the Congressional Black Caucus, and all the leadership that has come out of the Congressional Black Caucus, which, of course, both of you are a part of. So, I'm going to ask you to just hold on for a minute. We're going to take a quick break, but we will be back to continue this discussion.
This is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.
We are back with Congressman James Clyburn and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. We're remembering Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who died yesterday from a brain aneurysm. So, I just wanted to spend a couple more minutes with you. As I mentioned earlier in the show, she really has been a friend to this show, someone we would call on for insight and analysis. In a 2007 interview once she had taken on the role of chairing the Ethics Committee, I asked her about her start in politics. Here's a little bit of what she told us.
Representative TUBBS JONES: I worked in the campaign of Carl Stokes, the first African-American mayor of a major American city, which was in 1967, and then the next year in 1968 I worked in the campaign of my predecessor, Louis Stokes, the first African-American member of Congress from the state of Ohio, chair of the Ethics Committee as well, just a wonderful, wonderful role model. So, I got involved in their campaigns, but at the same time I was a 60s girl. So, we were involved in issues impacting the African-American community, tutoring young people in the city, I was involved with CORE, the Urban League, the NAACP, Operation Big Vote.
CHIDEYA: What I'm going to ask you both just to conclude this is how is she being remembered by her colleagues, and how do you think she'll be remembered by people who are in her district, and people who have been watching her career? Congressman, first.
Representative CLYBURN: I think she'll be remembered as a very passionate public servant, a very tenacious political operative. She was also compassionate. I spent a lot of time with Stephanie socially. It's why I always asked her to go back in the room, to be my fellow when votes were being counted. I called upon her very often just to sit down and talk, as I did Saturday afternoon. We spent about 30 minutes together Saturday afternoon, just the two of us alone with my daughter and one of my daughter's friends, just chatting because I always enjoyed doing that with her. I always enjoyed sitting at the card table with her, because you knew that she would be a joy to be with, as well as a very tenacious competitor. And so I think she will be remembered as a great public servant, passionate yet very tenacious, a very tenacious political operative.
Representative WATERS: I think - of course, Jim is absolutely correct that she'll be remembered as a passionate public servant, but she'll also be recorded as a pioneer. She had so many firsts. She was the first in Cleveland to be a prosecuting attorney African-American woman. She was the first elected official black woman, elected official from Ohio. She was the first African-American woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee. She's the first African-American woman to chair the Ethics Committee. So, she has so many firsts. She'll be remembered not only as a pioneer, but someone who broke down the walls, and the barriers, and new opportunities. She did it because she believed in herself, she had confidence. She knew she was smart and talented, and she used her talent to break down these doors and these walls, and that of course inspires others who came behind her that they can do the same thing. And I think she'll be remembered in that way.
CHIDEYA: Well, I want to thank both of you for these very strong memories and very strong definition of who Stephanie Tubbs Jones was. Thank you so much.
Representative CLYBURN: Thank you.
Representative WATERS: You're so welcome. See you in Denver, Jim.
Representative CLYBURN: That's right. See you.
Representative WATERS: Bye bye.
CHIDEYA: We've been speaking with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represents California's 35th District, and James Clyburn, the House majority whip, from South Carolina's Sixth District.