The Democratic lieutenant governor of New Jersey, Sheila Oliver Jr., has died. She was 71.
The cause of death was not immediately clear, but Oliver, described as a "trailblazer" in the state's politics, was rushed to the hospital on Monday after a medical episode.
The Newark native was serving as acting governor when she died, while Governor Phil Murphy (D) was on vacation in Italy.
Her family released a statement on the tragic news.
"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," the family said in a statement. "She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero."
Oliver was the first black woman to hold statewide office in New Jersey. She served in the state legislature from 2004 to 2018, including as Speaker of the Assembly, before rising to the role of lieutenant governor.
Her death led to tributes from all around the tri-state area, from both parties. Murphy said appointing her was the "best decision I ever made."
"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," he said.
Oliver was the second person in the state's history to hold the position of Lt. Governor, which was created in the 2000s after a referendum. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican who created the office of Lt. Governor, called her a "great person and partner."
"I will miss Sheila. She served as Speaker in my first term and we treated each other with kindness and respect," Christie said. "She was a great person and partner."
New York City mayor Eric Adams (D) also weighed in, saying she "knocked down barriers for women of color in government, climbing the ranks to the highest levels."
Sheila Oliver was a trailblazer. She knocked down barriers for women of color in government, climbing the ranks to the highest levels.
On behalf of New York City, I offer our condolences to her friends, family and the people of New Jersey who she so dutifully served.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) August 1, 2023
Senate president Nicholas Scutari has taken over as acting governor until Murphy returns.