Juanita Millender-McDonald

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Congressional portrait of Millender-McDonald

Juanita Millender-McDonald (born September 7, 1938 in Birmingham; died April 22, 2007 in Carson, California) was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from 1996 until her death in 2007, representing California's 37th congressional district, which includes most of South Central Los Angeles and the cities of Compton and Long Beach.

On December 19, 2006, Millender-McDonald was named Chairwoman of the House Committee on House Administration for the 110th Congress. She was the first Black woman to chair the committee.


Born in Birmingham to Reverend Shelly Millender Sr, Juanita lost her mother to a heart attack when she was just 3 years old. She moved to California with her husband, Jim McDonald and enrolled in college.

Then going by her husband's name, McDonald raised five children in Carson, California before returning to school in 1978. She earned her bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Redlands, California. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in educational administration from the California State University in Los Angeles and then received a Ph.D. in public administration from the University of Southern California.

She was employed as an English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and volunteered in the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1982. From 1990 to 1993 she served as a member of the City Council of Carson, California, becoming Mayor Pro-Tem in 1991. In 1993 she ran successfully for the California State Assembly.

She was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in a March 1996 special election to replace Congressman Walter Tucker, who resigned due to corruption charges and was later sentenced to 27 months in prison. She changed her name to Millender-McDonald prior to being sworn in to pay tribute to her father, who died in 1983. She did not face any serious opposition in six subsequent reelection campaigns. Some considered her a front-runner for Secretary of Transportation if John Kerry had been elected President in 2004.

Her period in congress was marked by support for fair elections, opposition to the ethnic killings in Darfur, and for her questioning of the CIA's possible role in the crack cocaine epidemic in American inner cities in the 1980s. She strongly supported the funding of Federally-supported programs in her district and the incentives provided to keep Boeing's C-17 project in Long Beach.

Millender-McDonald was the founder and executive director of the League of African-American Women and also founded the Young Advocates, a program which provided training in political leadership for young African-Americans.

On April 18, 2007 Millender-McDonald requested a leave of absence from Congress following a diagnosis of colon cancer. She succumbed to the disease on April 22 at the age of 68 at her home in Carson. She was survived by her husband and five children, Valerie, Angela, Sherryll, Chris and Keith.


  • Maddaus, Gene (April 22, 2007) "Millender-McDonald dies at 68." Long Beach Press-Telegram.
  • "Juanita Millender-McDonald." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 24 Apr 2007, 02:53 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 Apr 2007 [1].

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