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Florence Pendleton, D.C.’s first shadow senator, passed away peacefully in her Georgia home on Sept. 10. She was 94 years old.
Pendleton was first elected in 1990, alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson, as one of two shadow senators. She was the first Black woman elected to the Senate, and continues to be the only woman to ever serve as shadow senator. But because she served as a shadow senator, Pendleton did not have a vote in the full Senator or in committee. The office of a shadow senator is not even on Capitol Hill, rather it is in the Wilson Building. The position is also unpaid.
According to lifelong D.C. reporter and City Paper columnist, Tom Sherwood, Pendleton’s election was eclipsed by Jackson’s, a national figure who had twice run for President. While Jackson flirted with running for D.C. mayor but national issues turned his attention away, Sherwood says Pendleton made statehood her full time job. During a Martin Luther King Jr. ceremony in 1993, she said King’s dream is alive and well in D.C. residents who will make statehood a reality.
“It’s alive because here in the District of Columbia, we are—after 30 years from that march in 1963—struggling for dignity and respect, although we have paid everything that we’re supposed to do. We’re somewhat like a student who has answered all of the questions on the exam perfectly and is expecting an A. We here in the District of Columbia have answered all of the questions, and we’re expecting statehood,” she told the crowd. “And we are going to get it. I say that to you because we are working for it.”
Before being elected, Pendleton was a principal in DC Public Schools. She was elected at the same time as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Pendleton would serve in the position for 17 years.
“Our city will remember this year, the year the House passed our D.C. statehood bill, with gratitude for Senator Pendleton’s service to the District of Columbia,” says Norton in a statement.
The day Pendleton passed away, Norton announced that the House-passed D.C. statehood bill had been placed on the Senate floor calendar for the first time in history. While the placement does not guarantee that the Senate will consider it—much less pass it—Senate Democrats have already jumped-started the procedural process.
A celebration for Pendleton is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. Send your condolences online.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
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