Veteran state Sen. Yvonne Miller, D-Norfolk, died today at the age of 77. She was the first black woman elected to the House of Delegates and to the state Senate, and the first black woman to chair a Senate committee. She would have observed her 78th birthday on Wednesday.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has issued this statement:
“Maureen and I are deeply saddened to learn of the news of the passing of State Senator Yvonne Miller. Yvonne was a history-maker and a trail blazer. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia State Senate. 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. Yvonne Miller cared deeply about people, and she was a strong voice always ready to passionately advocate for the disadvantaged, the forgotten and the overlooked. Yvonne made history when she was elected to the General Assembly. But she made the biggest difference in what she did once she got there. We will all miss Senator Yvonne Miller and her passionate service to the people of Virginia. She was a wonderful human being and a great American. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends in this difficult hour.”
Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, the chairwoman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, also has issued a statement on Miller’s death:
“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of State Senator Yvonne B. Miller. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has lost a stalwart and a giant. The Commonwealth of Virginia has lost a great Virginian, a great legislator, and a great humanitarian. Senator Miller’s was a powerful voice that spoke most eloquently to the mission of the VLBC being an organization committed to the underrepresented and underserved. In her own words, Senator Miller said this at the start of the 2012 legislative session:
‘The downturn in the economy has caused many Virginians to suffer the pains of homelessness, hunger and unemployment. This is the time that they need legislators to increase expenditures in human services, education and health. The mental health needs are great and the services are few. We need to care for the sick and infirmed and the elderly who are also citizens of the Commonwealth and entitled to share in the bounty of the state.’
That irreplaceable voice will be truly missed by all who knew and loved Yvonne B. Miller. She was and will forever remain a giant among women and a role model for us all. On behalf of the VLBC, we extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family of our beloved colleague and friend.”
More statements from Virginia political leaders are below:
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner
“Yvonne Miller was always ‘Senator Miller’ to me. You could count on her always to speak truth to power.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling:
“I was very sorry to hear of the death of Senator Yvonne Miller. I had the privilege of serving with Senator Miller in the Senate of Virginia for the past 17 years. During that time I came to respect Senator Miller’s passion for the causes she believed in and her unwavering commitment to the best interests of the citizens she served. While Senator Miller and I represented two different political perspectives and often disagreed on the best way to address the challenges facing Virginia, I always knew that she did what she thought was in the best long term interests of our state, and that is what political leadership should be about.
“During her 28 years of service in the Virginia General Assembly, Senator Yvonne Miller made her mark in many ways. She was an outspoken advocate for public education and higher education, but her greatest passion came from her efforts to protect the interests of the least fortunate among us. Throughout her career Senator Miller reminded us of the importance of these significant causes, and she effectively fought for the things she believed in, whether she was in the majority or the minority. She was an effective and capable public servant and she will be missed by all her knew her and served with her.”
Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax County:
“This woman lived a long and full life. She has lived through the best and the worst this country has to offer and made contributions that made it a lot better.”
Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Donald McEachin of Henrico County:
“Yvonne Miller dedicated her life to making the world a better place. She did not hesitate to speak truth to power, and to remind us all of our principles and values. As the senior member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Yvonne was our soul and our conscience. I miss her terribly already.”
Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment of James City County:
“On behalf of the Democratic Party of Virginia I want to express my profoundest condolences to the family and friends who are coping with the passing of Senator Yvonne Miller. I would also like to convey the utmost gratitude and admiration for Senator Miller’s tremendous lifetime of service to her community, Commonwealth and country.
“Few Virginians in history have done more for the cause of justice, equality and societal progress than Senator Miller and no one has done it with her grace, style and ferocious dedication to building a Virginia where every person can live, work and thrive.
“This is a day to reflect on the tremendous loss of one of our most impactful public servants, but also to challenge ourselves to live up to the standard that Senator Miller set for each of us during her decades of service to this Commonwealth.”