New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver has died at the age of 71 after being hospitalized on Monday for an undisclosed medical issue. She was serving as acting governor while Governor Phil Murphy was traveling in Italy.
Information regarding arrangements for Oliver have not yet been made available. The governor is expected to be back in New Jersey on Thursday, Aug. 3.
Born and raised in Newark and a 40-year resident of East Orange, Lt. Gov. Oliver was a pioneer in New Jersey politics and made history by becoming the first black woman to serve as Speaker of the State Assembly and only the second black woman to lead a state legislature in the country.
“She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero…Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community,” her family said in a statement,
Governor Murphy tapped Oliver to be his running mate during his first election campaign in 2017. She was only the second Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey after former Gov. Chris Christie initiated the role. Oliver was often viewed as a potential successor to Gov. Murphy once his term expired.
In a statement, Governor Murphy commended Lt. Gov. Oliver’s dedication to public service and her efforts to aid in the revitalization of cities, improving affordable housing and taking action on new homelessness prevention policies.
“She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere, especially young women of color. Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable,” Murphy said.
Meadowlands Chamber CEO Jim Kirkos remarked, “Sheila Oliver was a faithful and dedicated Lt. Governor who loved serving the residents of New Jersey. We send our deepest condolences to her family and close friends and we pray for their comfort.”
It is unclear who will be Oliver’s successor as lieutenant governor, yet according to the state’s constitution, Murphy must name one in 45 days.
New Jersey’s constitution also says that Senate President Nicholas Scutari serves as acting governor if the governor and lieutenant governor are out of state or incapacitated.