By: Richard L. Smith
This Black History Month, we take a day to honor a remarkable figure in New Jersey politics, The Honorable Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver.Her journey and achievements resonate deeply with the spirit of this month's celebration.
Lt. Governor Oliver, a native of Newark, New Jersey, has blazed trails in her political career. She stands as the first Black woman to serve as lieutenant governor in New Jersey and the first woman of color elected to statewide office in the state.
A product of Weequahic High School, she went on to graduate cum laude from Lincoln University. She later earned an MSW from Columbia University, showcasing her academic prowess and commitment to community service.
Her journey in public service saw her playing a pivotal role in education as part of the East Orange School District's Board of Education, eventually becoming its president.
Representing the 34th legislative district in the New Jersey General Assembly, she made history as the first Black woman speaker of the General Assembly and the second in the U.S. to lead a state legislative body.
Her partnership with Phil Murphy in the 2017 gubernatorial race led them to victory, marking another milestone in her inspiring career. Even during challenging times, like when she faced a medical event in 2023, her resilience shone through. Oliver died the following day, August 1, 2023, at the age of 71.
Today, we salute Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, a true soldier in the fight for the people of New Jersey.
Her dedication, leadership, and strong spirit made her a beacon of inspiration.
Her legacy continues to empower and uplift, reminding us of the extraordinary contributions of Black women in shaping our nation's history and future.