- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and a 1972 candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, died Saturday, friends said. She was 80.

“She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us,” Robert E. Williams, president of the NAACP in Flagler County, said late yesterday. He said he did not have the details of her death.

Mrs. Chisholm, who was raised in a New York City neighborhood and was elected to the House in 1968, often criticized Congress as being too clubby and unresponsive.

“My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency,” she told voters.

She went to Congress the same year Richard Nixon was elected to the White House and served seven terms, until two years into Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Her longtime campaign treasurer, William Howard, yesterday said, “Anyone that came in contact with her … they felt that she was very much a part of each individual as she represented her district.”

In her first term in Congress, Mrs. Chisholm voted for Louisiana Rep. Hale Boggs, who was white, over Michigan Rep. John Conyers, who was black, for House majority leader. Mr. Boggs rewarded her with a place on the prized Education and Labor Committee and she was its third-ranking member when she left.

She ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972. When rival candidate and ideological opposite Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot, she visited him in the hospital — an act that appalled her followers.

“He said, ‘What are your people going to say?’ I said: ‘I know what they’re going to say. But I wouldn’t want what happened to you to happen to anyone.’ He cried and cried,” she recalled.

When she needed support to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers two years later, it was Mr. Wallace who helped her gather the votes from Southern members of Congress.

When New York Rep. Bella Abzug challenged Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1976 Democratic Senate primary, Mrs. Chisholm caused a stir by backing Mr. Moynihan

“Where was Abzug when I ran for president?” she asked, when questioned about her choice.

Her leadership traits were recognized by her parents early on, she recalled. Born Shirley St. Hill in New York City on Nov. 30, 1924, she was the eldest of four daughters of a Guyanese father and a Barbadian mother. Her father, an unskilled laborer in a burlap bag factory, and her mother, a domestic, scrimped to educate their children. She graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University.

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