Obituary: Juanita Millender-McDonald’s public service will be remembered by many

By Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

State representative for the 37th District, Juanita Millender-McDonald, died Saturday night in her Carson home. She was 68.
Millender-McDonald, who represented Signal Hill, a large swath of Long Beach, and other cities, had only recently announced she had cancer, and just last week had asked for a four- to six-week absence from the House of Representatives to cope with her illness.
“All of us are saddened by the news of Congresswoman Millender-McDonald’s passing,” Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said in a statement. “She was vibrant, charismatic and a constant champion for the causes she believed in. Our prayers are with her family throughout this very difficult time.”
Millender-McDonald’s family thanked everyone for the outpouring of support and asked for patience and understanding at this difficult time.
The congresswoman’s reach could be seen in articles across the country earlier this week, with President George W. Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both publicly issuing their condolences.
Locally, 8th District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich sent her thoughts and prayers with the Congresswoman’s family, whom she said led a life dedicated to public service and causes.
“We’re saddened. She was a good friend of Signal Hill,” said Signal Hill City Manager Ken Farfsing. He noted her ardent support for the city’s new police station.
The seven-term state representative won her seat in 1996 in a special election replacing Rep. Walter Tucker III, who was convicted of taking bribes and cheating on his taxes.
Millender-McDonald was chairwoman of the Committee on House Administration, which oversees operations of the House and federal election procedures–a seat she gained earlier this year.
Born in Birmingham Ala., in 1938, Millender-McDonald gained national attention in 1996 when she took the then-CIA director to Watts. She called for an independent investigation of whether claims the agency was responsible for the crack epidemic plaguing her community were valid.
Millender-McDonald is survived by her husband, Jim; five children, Valerie, Angela, Sherryll, Chris and Keith; and five grandchildren.
Funeral services will be at noon Monday at the Second Baptist Church at 2412 Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A repast will be held at the Carson Community Center at 801 East Carson Street in Carson immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made in the name of Juanita Millender-McDonald to the African-American Women’s Health and Education Foundation, 455 E. Carson Plaza, Suite C, Carson, CA 90746.
Under California election laws, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has just more than a week to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.