Former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins Dead at 81

Former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins
AP Photo/John Duricka

Cardiss Collins, the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress, died of complications from pneumonia at a Virginia hospital, according to a family friend.

Mel Blackwell said this week that Collins died Sunday evening at a hospital in Alexandria, Va., after suffering a stroke and spending time in a nursing home.

“She was a groundbreaking congresswoman,” Blackwell said.

Collins originally was elected to fill the seat left vacant when her husband, Congressman George W. Collins, who represented what was then the 7th District, was killed in a 1972 airplane crash. In 1994, the last year she ran for office, she was re-elected with 79 percent of the vote.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, who succeeded Collins, said that during her more than 24 years in Congress, Collins led efforts to curtail credit fraud against women, advocated gender equity in college sports and worked to reform federal child care facilities. She chaired the Government Activities and Transportation Sub-Committee.

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