Longtime Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson dies at 88

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U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, one of the most prominent Democrats from the Dallas area, died on Sunday at the age of 88. 

The Dallas Morning News also confirmed her death with an unnamed source close to the family. No cause of death was given.

Johnson was born in Waco and grew up in the segregated South. Dallas’ once-segregated Union Station was renamed in her honor in 2019. 

She served in the U.S. House for three decades after becoming the first registered nurse elected to Congress and the first Black chief psychiatric nurse at Dallas’ Veterans Affairs hospital. 

Johnson went on to become the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and she also led the Congressional Black Caucus. She left office in January after repeatedly delaying her retirement. Before Congress, she served in the Texas legislature.

Her own experience with racism helped spur her to get involved in politics. She recalled that officials at the VA hospital were shocked that she was Black after they hired her sight-unseen, so they rescinded their offer for her to live in a dorm on campus. 

President Biden said Johnson was a ‘dedicated nurse, state legislator, and longtime U.S. congresswoman with immense courage and a commitment to the promise of America.’

Biden hailed her ‘immense courage’ and called her ‘an icon and mentor to generations of public servants, through whom her legacy of resilience and purpose will endure.’

‘For three decades, Chairwoman Johnson was a powerful force in the United States Congress, always focused on the future,’ House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, praising Johnson as ‘a tenacious trailblazer, a talented legislator and a devoted public servant.’

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford said Johnson was also ‘a fierce advocate for expanding STEM opportunities to Black and minority students’ who also played a key role in helping the Biden administration pass a major package of incentives for computer chip manufacturers.

‘She was the single most effective legislator Dallas has ever had,’ Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. ‘Nobody brought more federal infrastructure money home to our city. Nobody fought harder for our communities and our residents’ interests and safety. And nobody knew how to navigate Washington better for the people of Dallas.’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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