Sen. Yvonne Miller, the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, died today in Norfolk, Va. Tomorrow, July 4th, would have been Miller's 78th birthday. She had cancer.
At the time of her death, Sen. Miller was the longest serving woman in the the history of the Virginia Senate, ranking 4th in overall seniority. In 1996, she became the first woman to chair a Senate committee. Miller was also a retired professor at Norfolk State University.
Miller was elected to the Virginia House of delegates in 1984. She became a member of the Virginia Senate in 1988.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell defined Miller as "a history-maker and a trail blazer."
"Yvonne Miller cared deeply about people, and she was a strong voice always ready to passionately advocate for the disadvantaged... She was the first woman to chair a Senate Committee, and she was the longest-serving woman in the history of the Virginia State Senate. She was passionate about education, and she loved her alma mater, Norfolk State University," the Governor added.
"Yvonne was a stalwart champion of civil rights and paved the way for others to follow not only with her words but with her actions. This is evidenced by the number of 'firsts' that can be attributed to her. Yvonne was the first African American woman to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates and the first African American woman to serve in the Virginia Senate. She was the longest serving woman in the Virginia Senate, where she ranked 3rd in overall seniority," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) in a statement.
Tim Kaine, former Virginia governor and chairman of the Demcratic National Committee, added that Miller was a trailblazer, a strong voice for education and equality, and a dear friend.
"She was raised in a Virginia that looks very different than the one she leaves behind, thanks in no small part to her career in education and public service," Kaine said. "Her legacy will live on in the hundreds of lives she touched during a career that began in Virginia's segregated schools and spanned more than four decades."
Kaine continued that: "Yvonne will also be remembered as a woman who broke down barriers in Virginia politics, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the House of Delegates, the first African American woman elected to the Senate of Virginia and the first woman to chair a Senate committee. For more than two decades, Yvonne represented Hampton Roads with enthusiasm and pride."
Miller represented the 5th Senate district in Hampton Roads, which made up of parts of Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.