UNITED STATES NEWS

Sheila Oliver, New Jersey’s lieutenant governor and a prominent Black leader, dies at 71

Aug 1, 2023, 9:35 AM | Updated: 11:58 am

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who rose to become one of New Jersey’s most prominent Black leaders and passionately advocated for revitalizing cities and against gun violence, died Tuesday after a sudden illness. She was 71.

No cause of death was given, according to a statement from her family issued by Gov. Phil Murphy ’s office. Oliver was serving as acting governor while Murphy and his family are on vacation in Italy. His office said she had been hospitalized on Monday.

Murphy said he and his family are distraught at the news. Naming Oliver as his lieutenant governor was, he said, “the best decision I ever made.”

She was the first Black woman to hold statewide elected office in New Jersey, winning the vote alongside Murphy in 2017 and again in 2021. She was a well-known figure in state government, and made history in 2010 by becoming the first Black woman to lead the state Assembly.

In contrast to her predecessor, who rarely appeared alongside Gov. Chris Christie, Oliver regularly stood at Murphy’s side and signed several bills into law while serving as acting governor.

She was a compelling public speaker and frequent attendee at Murphy’s bill signings and other events, where he typically introduced her as his “rocking” lieutenant governor.

In 2021 while unveiling tighter gun legislation alongside Murphy, Oliver’s voice cracked as she lamented the gun violence that disproportionately affected cities in the state and lamented what she suggested was runaway gun violence.

“We are tired of funerals and memorials,” Oliver said. “Growing up in Newark, I tell young people I could go to any section of this city by myself or with my friends. Our young people cannot do that today.”

In 2021, she signed a bill that established a pilot program to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system in four cities and which aimed to reintegrate young people into their communities. Another measure she signed in 2021 revived a defunct fund for “urban enterprise zones” aimed driving economic development in cities through lower sales tax rates.

In addition to serving as Murphy’s top deputy, stepping in while he was out of the state, she also oversaw the Department of Community Affairs, which coordinates state aid to towns and cities and supervises code enforcement.

Her sudden illness and death seemed to have stunned officials.

“This is devastating news. I am shocked at the passing of Lieutenant Governor Oliver. Sheila is a pathbreaker and has been one of the foremost leaders of our great state for decades. I am still processing this,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. said in a statement.

Murphy’s office announced on July 31 that Oliver was admitted to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with an undisclosed medical condition. The governor’s office declined to elaborate.

Her family’s statement remembered her as “our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”

Murphy spokesperson Mahen Gunaratna said the governor will be “returning soon” but didn’t specify when. He was set to return Aug. 13.

Oliver served in the Assembly since 2004 and was on the Essex County board of chosen freeholders from 1996 to 1999. Born and raised in Newark, she earned a sociology degree from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University.

“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,” Murphy said in a statement Tuesday. “Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable.”

Oliver was just the second person to hold the post of lieutenant governor, a newer state government position that began under previous Gov. Chris Christie.

It was unclear who would immediately succeed her. New Jersey’s constitution calls for Senate President Nicholas Scutari to serve as acting governor if the governor and lieutenant governor are out of state or incapacitated. The constitution requires Murphy to appoint Oliver’s successor within 45 days.

United States News

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

24 minutes ago

Associated Press

Unfair labor complaint filed against Notre Dame over athletes

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — An unfair labor complaint was filed Thursday against the University of Notre Dame for classifying college athletes as “student-athletes.” The complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a California-based group calling itself the College Basketball Players Association. It said Notre Dame is engaging in unfair labor practices […]

52 minutes ago

Associated Press

US deports about 50 Haitians to nation hit with gang violence, ending monthslong pause in flights

MIAMI (AP) — The Biden administration sent about 50 Haitians back to their country on Thursday, authorities said, marking the first deportation flight in several months to the Caribbean nation struggling with surging gang violence. The Homeland Security Department said in a statement that it “will continue to enforce U.S. laws and policy throughout the […]

2 hours ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Legislation allowing doctor-assisted suicide narrowly clears Delaware House, heads to state Senate

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A bill allowing doctor-assisted suicide in Delaware narrowly cleared the Democrat-led House on Thursday and now goes to the state Senate for consideration. The bill is the latest iteration of legislation that has been repeatedly introduced by Newark Democrat Paul Baumbach since 2015, and it is the only proposal to make […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

California governor pledges state oversight for cities, counties lagging on solving homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nearly $200 million in grant money will go to California cities and counties to move homeless people from encampments into housing, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday while also pledging increased oversight of efforts by local governments to reduce homelessness. The Democratic governor said he will move 22 state personnel from a […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Sheila Oliver, New Jersey’s lieutenant governor and a prominent Black leader, dies at 71