Cardiss Collins, the first African-American woman to represent
Illinois in Congress and for many years the only black congresswoman,
at age 81.
Family friend Mel Blackwell
said Mrs. Collins died of complications from pneumonia Sunday evening at
a hospital in Alexandria, Va.
In 1974, Collins
filled the 7th Congressional District seat after her husband, U.S. Rep.
George Collins, was killed in a plane crash. She held the position for
From 1979 until 1981, Mrs. Collins
served as the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and during
her tenure was the first African-American woman to serve as a Democratic
Majority Whip At-Large. Collins last ran for office in 1994, when she
was re-elected with 79 percent of the vote.
At the time she stepped down in 1995 at age 64, she’d been the longest serving black congresswoman to date.
Collins was one of the strongest, most dedicated public servants in
Illinois history," said Gov. Pat Quinn in a statement. "She inspired
generations with her never-ending fight for consumers and unmatched
commitment to her constituents on the West Side of Chicago."
Collins was a trailblazer. She was the first African-American woman to
represent the state of Illinois in Congress and one of the
longest-serving women in Congressional history. In addition to being a
leading national voice, she was a dedicated mother and, prior to her
time as an elected official, a hard-working state employee," the governor added. “Cardiss Collins is a legend in our state. She will be greatly