NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Sen. Yvonne Miller (D-Norfolk) passed away at 3 p.m. on July 3 in her Norfolk home, according to Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), and other State leaders saddened by her passing.
Miller was born in 1934 in Edenton, N.C., and would have turned 78 on July 4.
Miller has been a state senator since 1988, and worked as a state representative from 1984 to 1987. Miller was the first black woman to serve in both the state House and the state Senate.
The news of Miller's death quickly spread throughout the Norfolk and political communities.
Congressman Bobby Scott said the Fifth District and the entire Commonwealth have lost a dedicated public servant.
"It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my friend and colleague Senator Yvonne Bond Miller," Scott said. "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 third in overall seniority, and she was the first woman to ever chair a Senate Committee. The citizens of the Fifth District and the entire Commonwealth have lost a dedicated public servant. My thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Miller's family and her staff."
Miller had a long career as an educator before she entered politics.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell expressed his sentiments following the news of Miller's death, calling her a "history-maker" and a "trail blazer."
McDonnell also stated, "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.”
"This is an extremely sad day in the City of Norfolk and the Commonwealth," said Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim. "Senator Yvonne Miller was one of the great public servants of our time. She never forgot why she ran for office, never forgot who she was elected to serve. She was a relentless advocate for the young, the disadvantaged and members of the community who did not have a voice. We will miss her greatly."
Tim Kaine, a candidate for U.S. Senate, offered the following statement:
“Anne and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Yvonne Miller. Yvonne 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. 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."
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran released the following statement:
"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."
Lt. Governor Bill Bolling had the following words to say regarding Miller's passing:
“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.”
Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) issued this statement:
"She earned her place in Virginia history by breaking-down political barriers for women and African Americans. She also earned our abiding respect through her passionate and tenacious service on behalf of those Virginians who had no voice. I join all Virginians in mourning her passing and celebrating her remarkable life."
Paul Hirschbiel, who is running for congress against Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach), issued this statement:
Her driving spirit and engaging love of Virginia and all its citizens will be truly missed. Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth have lost a dear friend, a great leader, and a true stateswoman.”
Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Ches) offered his condolences:
"Not only did Senator Miller and I share representation of a portion of Chesapeake, but we also served together in the Virginia Senate. Senator Miller made history when she became the first elected African American female to both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. She also earned her PhD and was Professor Emeritus at Norfolk State University. There is no question that Senator Miller reaching such heights helped inspire and pave the way for many young women following behind her. We thank Senator Yvonne Miller for her service to our community and our State. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this time of loss."
WAVY.com last spoke on camera with Senator Miller in April.
When the General Assembly finally passed a budget that gave $100 million to Hampton Roads to pay down tolls on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnel, Senator Miller was still not pleased with the process which she called "flawed" because, according to her, it was not solving the real problems of transportation.
"The reason I am not happy is because the state needs to stop putting on band-aids, and stop putting on band-aids statewide," MIller said "We need revenue streams to fund transportation improvements."
Among her many accomplishments, Senator Miller was the first woman ever to chair a Senate Committee. In January, when Senator Miller lost her Chairmanship of the Transportation Committee, she was disappointed that Republican Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, was able to break the 20-20 tie between elected Democrats and Republicans
"I think the Commonwealth has now reverted to the inglorious past that was dominated by whites and minorities were eliminated," MIller said.
"You always knew where Senator Miller stood on the issues," WAVY.com's political reporter Andy Fox said. "She did not mince words, she did not pander, and she never went in a political spin-zone. Her sound-bytes on air were clear, concise and precise. She spoke like a leader because she was a leader."
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