Senator Yvonne Miller of Virginia, the longest-serving woman in the Virginia Senate, died on Tuesday, according to Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar. Miller had been battling stomach cancer over the past year and missed several weeks of the 2011 legislative session. She was 77.
Miller served as a Democrat in the House of Delegates from 1984 to 1987 before she was elected to state Senate, which, until recently, had been dominated by white men. She was the first African-American woman to serve in each of the two houses, and the first woman to lead a Senate committee. In a statement, Republican Governor Robert McDonnell said, “Yvonne was a history-maker and a trail blazer. 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.” Miller is a Norfolk native who received her undergraduate degree from a segregated school and began teaching in the segregated Norfolk Public Schools. She later taught at Norfolk State, and retired from the Department of Early Childhood/Elementary Education in 1999. “She lived a full and complete life and witnessed the worst and best this country had to offer,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “This woman had seen it all.”