Skip to main content
Select Source:

Millender-McDonald, Juanita

Millender-McDonald, Juanita

1938-2007

Congresswoman

Even from her beginnings as a teacher, Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald fought for others. She wrote a textbook that exposed female students to non-traditional careers. She was an advocate for educational and women's issues. Millender-McDonald served on nearly every level of politics from Democratic convention delegate to United States House Representative—the office she served in at the time of her passing in 2007. Millender-McDonald's longtime friend, Frances Cottrell, chairwoman of the Carson Planning Commission, remarked in the Los Angeles Times about Millender-McDonald's commitment to her constituency over the years: "She wasn't a person who just stressed African Americans; she worked hard for all the community."

Loved Teaching, Education

Millender-McDonald was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 7, 1938. When she was three her mother died and her father moved his family of five children to the Los Angeles area. She has lived in the city of Carson for over 30 years. She began her career as a teacher after receiving a business degree from the University of Redlands and earning her teaching credentials in the California State University System. Millender-McDonald then went on to acquire her Masters Degree in Educational Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Despite her busy schedule as a member of the House of Representatives, the Congresswoman always made education an important and personal part of her life. She continued her own education in a Masters/Doctorate Degree program in Public Administration at the University of Southern California.

After receiving her master's degree, Millender-McDonald left the classroom to become a writer for the Los Angeles Unified School District and edited a state-sponsored textbook designed for young women and girls called Images. The textbook, which was written to steer female students toward non-traditional careers, was one of the first examples of Millender-McDonald's life-long interest in women's issues. In 1984 the then high school administrator took her daughter to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. The pair was the first mother-daughter combination to be delegates at a political party's national convention. After her stint as a writer, Millender-McDonald was named the Director of Gender Equity Programs for the Los Angeles school district, the second largest school system in the country.

In 1990 Millender-McDonald began her career as a politician. She was elected to the Carson City Council, and became the body's first African-American woman. In only her second year, she was appointed Mayor Pro Tempore. One of her first acts was to have an ordinance passed that made the position of Mayor an elected office rather than an appointed one. She also began her career-long interest in transportation issues when she took on the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, nicknamed The Octopus. The company's endless lines of freight trains blocked rush-hour traffic in Carson and Alameda. When she asked the company about rescheduling the trains, Millender-McDonald told the Los Angeles Times' Bill Boyarsky, "They took an arrogant attitude. Their response was they couldn't do anything about it." This transportation concern would follow Millender-McDonald all the way to the national legislature eight years later.

Led a Busy Political Career

In 1992 Millender-McDonald decided to take her political career to the state level. After defeating two Democratic incumbents in the primary, she became the first woman to represent the 55th Assembly District in the California State Legislature. In Sacramento, she continued to be attracted to education and transportation issues.

In her first three years at the California State Legislature, Millender-McDonald introduced over 100 bills; several dealt with the transportation problem she first confronted as a member of the Carson City Council. The solution to the slow-running trains, which continued to delay the city's rush hour traffic, is called the Alameda corridor. The $1.8 billion public works project would lay new train tracks and build trenches and bridges. One sticking point in the deal was the $261 million the Southern Pacific was demanding for its Alameda Street route. The State disputed the amount claiming it was worth only $60 million. Millender-McDonald maneuvered around Southern Pacific by introducing and pushing through a bill giving the state power to acquire a right of way through eminent domain. The bill would force the railroad company to accept a government-assessed value for the route. Millender-McDonald then fought to make the Alameda corridor a national transportation artery, which made it eligible for federal funding. In the State Legislature, she also became the first woman to chair both the Insurance Committee and the Revenue and Taxation Committee. In the field of education Millender-McDonald conducted hearings across the state for three years to create an urban education reform proposal.

When Representative Walter R. Tucker III resigned from office in 1996 after being convicted of extortion and income tax fraud, there was a special election to fill the remaining months of his term. Eight Democrats competed in the election to determine who would represent the 37th District. One of those Democrats was Juanita Millender-McDonald. The former Garfield High School teacher won the special election to become the first woman to represent perhaps the most ethnically diverse district in the country. She won enough votes in the March 1996 special election not only to go to Washington D.C., but to automatically qualify for the regular November election. In the full election seven months later, she won against her Republican challenger with 85% of the vote.

Tackled Jobs, Women's Issues, Drug War

Millender-McDonald was named to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and to its Subcommittees on Aviation and Surface Transportation. She was also named to the Committee on Small Business and became the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Tax, Finance and Exports, along with a member of the Subcommittee on Empowerment. Less than two years after being elected Millender-McDonald was named Region One Democratic Whip. One of her top priorities was the maintenance of the Alameda Corridor, which brought federal dollars and jobs to her district. She told James Bornemeier of the Los Angeles Times about the importance of the project: "There is a critical need for jobs with good wages to give (the district) a sense of hope and economic well-being." In another move to secure funds for her district, Millender-McDonald voted to place transportation money "off budget" so those programs could not be cut to balance the budget.

At a Glance …

Born Juanita Millender on September 7, 1938, in Birmingham, AL; died on April 21, 2007, in Carson, CA; married James McDonald Jr.; children: Valerie, Angela, Sherryll, Chris, and Keith. Education: University of Redlands, BS, 1979 (some sources indicate 1981); California State University, MEd, educational administration, 1987; University of Southern California, studied public administration. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.

Career:

California, high school teacher, career center administrator, 1980s(?); Los Angeles Unified School District, writer editor; Images (California state textbook about self-esteem in women), editor, 1980s(?); Carson City Council, elected to office, 1990; California State Legislature, elected to office, 1992; member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1996-2007.

Awards:

Spot on the Watts Walk of Fame, 1998.

Another big influence on Millender-McDonald's work is women's issues. She has held procurement hearings for woman and minority business owners and organized the first Minority Women and Children AIDS Walk. Her most dramatic step for the advancement of women came in her conflict with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As a member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, she asked for hearings after a USA Today report exposed the sexual harassment common in control towers. She also called on the FAA to make a full report on its plans to improve the working atmosphere for women.

By far the most controversial stance that Millender-McDonald has taken involved crack cocaine. After an article in the San Jose Mercury News linking the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Nicaraguan Contras with the drug trade in South Central Los Angeles, California Representative Maxine Waters brought the matter to the nation's attention. Six months after her election, Millender-McDonald introduced House Resolution 518 to hold a Congressional Inquiry with the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. On November 15, 1996 she brought the Director of the CIA John Deutch to her Watts district to explain the allegations in a town hall type meeting. Though the Los Angeles Times reported that Deutch told the crowd, "I will get to the bottom of it," the discussion did not go well. The audience was angry and did not believe the CIA Director's claims that the agency was not involved with or knew anything about the drug trade in the area. During the meeting he was constantly heckled and interrupted and called a murderer. Millender-McDonald was forced to intervene several times on behalf of the Director. She even received criticism that she was too easy with Deutch. While she did credit the CIA's own investigation of the matter, she continued to press for an independent investigation. On February 13, 1997 she re-introduced legislation for an official inquiry of the CIA's connection to the crack cocaine trade. House Resolution 70 would establish a select committee in the House of Representatives. Millender-McDonald released a statement through her office on the reintroduction of the investigation legislation: "I think the American people deserve answers. The mere idea that our government could have, in any way, been involved in the financing or distribution of this horrendous drug is repulsive to me. I believe that it is incumbent on us to investigate these allegations fully and report the findings to the public."

For her efforts on behalf of her district, she was honored with a spot on the Watts Walk of Fame in February of 1998. Over the next decade, Millender-McDonald continued to win re-election with large margins of support. She also took on more responsibility on the House when she was named to the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over House operations, such as salaries and expenses for committees and staff, benefit and retirement matters, and federal election procedures, in 2005. Millender-McDonald became the first black chairperson of the Committee in 2007 after Democrats had gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Millender-McDonald's health became a source of speculation in the early 2000s. She underwent major surgery in 2005, but neither she nor her staff provided many details, and she remained an active member of Congress. She handily won election to her seventh term in 2006, winning 82 percent of the vote. In April of 2007, however, Millender-McDonald requested a four- to six-week leave of absence from her legislative duties so that she could attend to her health. Less than a week later, on April 21, 2007, she died of cancer at her home in Carson, California. She was 68. She is survived by her husband James McDonald Jr. and their five adult children. Yet the public will not easily forget her, as the impact of her work could still be enjoyed by her constituency. "Juanita Millender-McDonald was a trailblazer, always advocating for the full participation of all Americans in the success and prosperity of our country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked, according to MSNBC.com. "The dignity with which she faced her illness was an indication of the determination with which she always served the people of her district." The legacy of her work will serve her constituency for years to come.

Sources

Periodicals

Buffalo News, April 23, 2007, p. B4.

Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1993; April 21, 1996; November 16, 1996; April 23, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, April 23, 2007, p. 17

USA Today, August 1, 1997.

Washington Post, April 23, 2007, p. B6.

On-line

"America Votes 2006, State Races: California," CNN.com,www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/states/CA (June 8, 2007).

"Rep. Millender-McDonald Dies of Cancer," MSNBC.com,www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18261426 (June 8, 2007).

"Representative Millender-McDonald," U.S. House of Representatives,www.house.gov/millender-mcdonald/27pr.html (accessed 1997.)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/millender-mcdonald-juanita

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/millender-mcdonald-juanita

Millender-McDonald, Juanita 1938–

Juanita Millender-McDonald 1938

Congresswoman

Switched to Politics

Became a House Representative

First-Term Controversy

Sources

Even from her beginnings as a teacher, Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald has fought for others. She wrote a textbook exposing female students to non-traditional careers. She is an advocate for educational and womens issues. Mil-lender-McDonald has been on nearly every level of politics from Democratic convention delegate to her current position as a United States House Representative.

Millender-McDonald was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September 7, 1938. When she was three her mother died and her father moved his family of five children to the Los Angeles area. She has lived in the city of Carson for over 30 years. She began her career as a teacher after receiving a business degree from the University of Redlands and earning her teaching credentials in the California State University System. Millender-McDonald then went on to acquire her Masters Degree in Educational Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Despite her busy schedule as a member of the House of Representatives, the Congresswoman still makes education an important and personal part of her life. She has continued in a Masters/Doctorate Degree program in Public Administration at the University of Southern California.

After receiving her Masters, Mil-lender-McDonald left the classroom to become a writer for the Los Angeles Unified School District and edited a textbook designed for young women and girls called Images. The textbook, which was written to steer female students toward non-traditional careers, was one of the first examples of Millender-Mc-Donalds life-long interest in womens issues. In 1984 the then high school administrator took her daughter to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. The pair was the first mother-daughter combination to be delegates at a political partys national convention. After her stint as a writer, Millender-McDonald was named the Director of Gender Equity Programs for the Los Angeles school district, the second largest school system in the country.

Switched to Politics

In 1990 Millender-McDonald began her career as a politician. She was elected to the Carson City Council, the bodys first African American woman. In only her

At a Glance

Born Juanita Millender, September 7, 1938 in Bir mingham, AL; married to James McDonald Jr.; children: Valerie, Angela, Sherryll, Chris, and Keith; Education: University of Redlands, B.S.; California State University, Masters degree. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Began her career as an educator and administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District; elected to the Carson City Council, 1990; elected to the California State Legislature, 1992; member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1996-.

Awards: Spot on the Watts Walk of Fame, 1998.

Addresses: Residence Carson City, CA; Washington DC office 419 Canon, Washington DC 20515; District Office Suite 650, One Civic Plaza, Carson City, CA 90745.

second year, she was appointed Mayor Pro Tempore. One of her first acts was to have an ordinance passed that made the position of Mayor an elected office rather than an appointed one. She also began her career-long interest in transportation issues when she took on the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, nicknamed The Octopus. The companys endless lines of freight trains blocked rush-hour traffic in Carson and Alameda. When she asked the company about rescheduling the trains, Millender-McDonald told the Los Angeles Times Bill Boyarsky, They took an arrogant attitude. Their response was they couldnt do anything about it. This transportation concern would follow Millender-McDonald all the way to the national legislature eight years later.

In 1992 Millender-McDonald decided to take her political career to the state level. After defeating two Democratic incumbents in the primary, she became the first woman to represent the 55th Assembly District in the California State Legislature. In Sacramento, she continued to be attracted to education and transportation issues.

In her first three years at the California State Legislature, Millender-McDonald introduced over 100 bills; several dealt with the transportation problem she first confronted as a member of the Carson City Council.

The solution to the slow-running trains, which continued to delay the citys rush hour traffic, is called the Alameda corridor. The $1.8 billion public works project would lay new train tracks and build trenches and bridges. One sticking point in the deal was the $261 million the Southern Pacific was demanding for its Alameda Street route. The State disputed the amount claiming it was worth only $60 million. Millender-McDonald maneuvered around Southern Pacific by introducing and pushing through a bill giving the state power to acquire a right of way through eminent domain. The bill would force the railroad company to accept a government-assessed value for the route. Millender-McDonald then fought to make the Alameda corridor a national transportation artery, which made it eligible for federal funding. In the State Legislature, she also became the first woman to chair both the Insurance Committee and the Revenue and Taxation Committee. In the field of education Millender-McDonald conducted hearings across the state for three years to create an urban education reform proposal.

Became a House Representative

When Representative Walter R. Tucker III resigned from office in 1996 after being convicted of extortion and income tax fraud, there was a special election to fill the remaining months of his term. Eight Democrats competed in the election to determine who would represent the 37th District. One of those Democrats was Juanita Millender-McDonald. The former Garfield High School teacher won the special election to become the first woman to represent perhaps the most ethnically diverse district in the country. She won enough votes in the March 1996 special election not only to go to Washington D.C., but to automatically qualify for the regular November election. In the full election seven months later, she won against her Republican challenger with 85% of the vote.

Millender-McDonald was named to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and to its Subcommittees on Aviation and Surface Transportation. She was also named to the Committee on Small Business and became the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Tax, Finance and Exports, along with a member of the Subcommittee on Empowerment. Less than two years after being elected Millender-McDonald was named Region One Democratic Whip. One of her top priorities was the maintenance of the Alameda Corridor, which brought federal dollars and jobs to her district. She told James Bornemeier of the Los Angeles Times about the importance of the project: There is a critical need for jobs with good wages to give (the district) a sense of hope and economic well-being. In another move to secure funds for her district, Millender-McDonald voted to place transportation money off budget so those programs could not be cut to balance the budget.

Another big influence on Millender-McDonalds work is womens issues. She has held procurement hearings for woman and minority business owners and organized the first Minority Women and Children AIDS Walk. Her most dramatic step for the advancement of women came in her conflict with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As a member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, she asked for hearings after a USA Today report exposed the sexual harassment common in control towers. She also called on the FAA to make a full report on its plans to improve the working atmosphere for women.

First-Term Controversy

By far the most controversial stance that Millender-McDonald has taken involved crack cocaine. After an article in the San Jose Mercury News linking the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Nicaraguan Contras with the drug trade in South Central Los Angeles, California Representative Maxine Waters brought the matter to the nations attention. Six months after her election, Millender-McDonald introduced House Resolution 518 to hold a Congressional Inquiry with the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. On November 15, 1996 she brought the Director of the CIA John Deutch to her Watts district to explain the allegations in a town hall-type meeting. Though the Los Angeles Times reported that Deutch told the crowd, I will get to the bottom of it, the discussion did not go well. The audience was angry and did not believe the CIA Directors claims that the agency was not involved with or knew anything about the drug trade in the area. During the meeting he was constantly heckled and interrupted and called a murderer. Millender-McDonald was forced to intervene several times on behalf of the Director. She even received criticism that she was too easy with Deutch. While she did credit the CIAs own investigation of the matter, she continued to press for an independent investigation. On February 13, 1997 she re-introduced legislation for an official inquiry of the CIAs connection to the crack cocaine trade. House Resolution 70 would establish a select committee in the House of Representatives. Millender-McDonald released a statement through her office on the reintroduction of the investigation legislation: I think the American people deserve answers. The mere idea that our government could have, in any way, been involved in the financing or distribution of this horrendous drug is repulsive to me. I believe that it is incumbent on us to investigate these allegations fully and report the findings to the public.

For her efforts on behalf of her district, she was honored with a spot on the Watts Walk of Fame in February of 1998. She is married to James McDonald Jr. They have five adult children.

Sources

Periodicals

Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1993; April 21, 1996; November 16, 1996.

USA Today, August 1, 1997.

Other

Further information for this essay was taken from a resume and press releases from Representative Millender-McDonalds office at http://www.house.gov/millender-mcdonald/27pr.html.

Michael J. Watkins

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/millender-mcdonald-juanita-1938

"Millender-McDonald, Juanita 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/millender-mcdonald-juanita-1938