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Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver dies suddenly at 71

  • State

The state's first black lieutenant governor has died suddenly.

Sheila Oliver, 71, made history as the state's first black female Assembly speaker before becoming lieutenant governor.

She had a close relationship with Atlantic City as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

Oliver made several appearances with Mayor Marty Small.

"I’m just devastated," Small told BreakingAC. "It was beyond a working relationship. The LG was a friend."

Even before she became lieutenant governor, she was a proponent of the city, he said.

"When the takeover was swirling she was in the general Assembly," Small said. "She supported Atlantic City even when some people in Atlantic City didn't support it."

When she became lieutenant governor, Oliver was put into the spot of overseer as part of a takeover she didn't support.

Instead, she made it a partnership, the mayor said.

"We had a tremendous working relationship," Small said. "When many people didn’t belive in me, she was one of the people who did."

“Atlantic City is a developer’s dream,” she said during the mayor's State of the City in 2021.

“We want to be a partner with you. We want to be collaborator with you,” she added. “We want to begin to help Atlantic City access available resources that were never tapped into by this community.”

Small said Oliver was in Atlantic City so much, "we often teased her that Atlantic City was going to be her retirement home."

"We're going to keep the city moving in her honor," he said.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who just started a vacation to Italy with his family, tweeted about the loss.

"Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government," he wrote. "We ask that you all keep the Oliver family and all those who loved her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Attorney General Matthew Platkin called Oliver a hero.

"She was brilliant. She was fearless. And she was unfailingly kind," he said. "Her life was marked by service to her community, her county, her state and her country. Millions of New Jerseyans live in a more just and equitable state thanks to her efforts."

Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz issued the following statement today on the passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver:

“Today, we bid farewell to a remarkable woman who was a trailblazer in this state, a friend to so many, but to me, family," Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz said. "She was not only a fearless fighter for the voiceless, but she was also a pioneer who shattered glass ceilings and opened doors for so many women and especially women of color."

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, called her a "relentless voice for the voiceless, a passionate advocate for the disadvantaged and a champion for the most important issues facing the Garden State."

“To say that I am devastated by today’s news is an understatement," he said.


Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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