New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who was serving as acting governor this past week while Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was out of the country, has died at the age of 71.
A mainstay in New Jersey politics, Oliver was tapped to lead the state while Murphy was vacationing overseas in Italy.
On Monday evening, CBS News reported Oliver was hospitalized with an undisclosed medical issue.
A statement from her family on Tuesday afternoon that was shared on X, previously known as Twitter, confirmed her sudden death.
Statement from Lieutenant Governor Oliver’s Family. pic.twitter.com/ww2nH7J6F3
— New Jersey (@NJGov) August 1, 2023
“It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey,” her family said.
Describing her as a “distinguished public servant” Oliver’s family added she was a “cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”
“As we come to terms with this profound loss, we kindly request that you respect the privacy of the Oliver family during this difficult time as they grieve their beloved Sheila,” the statement continued. “Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration.”
Her family concluded:
“We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community. Further information and details regarding memorial arrangements will be provided in due course. Until then, we appreciate your understanding and support. May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her.”
Murphy also released a statement about the death of his running mate and political confidante.
Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, @LtGovOliver.
We ask that you all keep the Oliver family and all those who loved her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/ty6drz7DgY
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) August 1, 2023
“When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word,” Murphy said in a statement from Italy.
The governor added, “She had already made history as the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the General Assembly, and just the second Black woman in the nation’s history to lead a house of a state legislature.”
Murphy cited Oliver’s decades in public office and called the decision to tie his political future to her “the best decision I ever made.”
With the death of Oliver and with Murphy out of state, Democratic state Senate President Nicholas Scutari will now serve as acting governor until the governor returns, WABC-TV reported.
Oliver first sought a seat in the state Senate in 2001 but her bid was unsuccessful.
In 2003, she was elected as a member of the state’s General Assembly and later became the first black woman to serve as speaker.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.