TRENTON, N.J. (PIX11) – The late New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was a dear friend of Paterson School Board member Della McCall. In January, Oliver was the one who swore her into her position. She recalled hearing the shocking news of her death.
“I have to be honest. My knees buckled. I began to cry because I knew we had lost a very vital pulse in our state,” said McCall. “She was never too big for anybody. She was just Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver.”
McCall was among the thousands that walked through the State House Rotunda Thursday, where Oliver lay in state, flanked by a State Police honor guard.
“Sheila Oliver is grace and strength,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34th District). “The world is missing a great advocate, a great legislator, a great friend, a great friend, and to her family, a great aunt and daughter.”
The first Black woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the General Assembly, Oliver helped pave the way for Black and Brown women to serve in office. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus had the honor of escorting Oliver to the Rotunda.
“We’ve all worn official Kente cloth, authentic Kente cloth from Ghana, West Africa,” said Timberlake. “Purple symbolizes royalty, and the stool here is where the wisest person in the community sits upon, and we all wore this for her.”
Timberlake and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, D, 29th District, both members of the Black Caucus, Oliver’s death leaves a hole in their hearts. They hope her legacy will echo in eternity.
“Her leadership, her tenacity, her poise, everything about her,” said Speight.