What to Know
- New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver has passed away, her family announced Tuesday.
- The news comes a day after she was hospitalized Monday for an undisclosed medical issue.
- Oliver was acting as governor while Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is out of the country on vacation.
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver has passed away, her family announced Tuesday.
The news comes a day after she was hospitalized Monday for an undisclosed medical issue.
Oliver was acting as governor while Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is out of the country on vacation.
“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. She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero,” the Oliver family said in a statement.
“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community,” the statement went on to say.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari, a fellow Democrat, is acting in Oliver’s place as mandated under the state constitution.
“This is a heartbreaking loss for all of us who knew and admired Sheila Oliver. She touched the lives of countless people as a dedicated public official who worked tirelessly to improve opportunities for others. She has a record of accomplishment that is unmatched,” Scutari said in a statement.
Oliver, 71, was taken to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston on Monday, according to Murphy’s spokesperson Mahen Gunaratna. Gunaratna said Oliver was receiving “medical care,” but declined on Tuesday to elaborate further.
Murphy’s office has said he’s out of the country on a family vacation in Italy, where he owns a home. He is set to return Aug. 13. Although it is unclear when he will now return to the state following the news of Oliver’s death, in a statement Murphy said in part: “Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened and distraught to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word.”
New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman LeRoy J. Jones, Jr., also released a statement following Oliver’s death calling her an “exemplary role model for Black women and girls throughout our state.”
“Throughout her many years in elected office and government service, Sheila Oliver was a trailblazer and a true icon for representation, diversity and progress. As our state’s first Black woman to serve as Assembly Speaker and as Lt. Governor, Sheila leaves behind a legacy of breaking barriers that will never be forgotten,” Jones’ statement said in part.
Oliver attended the Newark Public Schools system and graduated cum laude from Lincoln University.
“Newark is in mourning. We’ve lost a favorite daughter, cherished and revered. Long before she was Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver mentored so many in our city – with wisdom, compassion, intelligence, and a fierce dedication to diversity, equality, equity, and justice,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.
She received her Master of Science Degree in Community Organization, Planning and Administration from Columbia University, and has gone on to receive doctorates of humane letters from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Lincoln University, Montclair University and Berkeley and Essex County Colleges.
Oliver has served as the state’s second lieutenant governor since 2018. She concurrently serves as the head of the Department of Community Affairs, which coordinates state aid to towns and cities and oversees code enforcement.
In 2010, she became the first African-American woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly in the state’s history.
She had served in the Assembly since 2004 and served on the Essex County board of chosen freeholders from 1996 to 1999.
Former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, a Republican, also praised Oliver, saying in a tweet: “It is a sad day for NJ and for me personally. The passing of Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is a loss for our state. I will miss Sheila. She served as Speaker in my first term and we treated each other with kindness and respect. We got things done. She was a great person and partner.”