- Associated Press - Monday, November 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The longest-serving woman in Wisconsin’s Legislature has died at age 77.

Former Rep. Annette Polly Williams, a Democrat from Milwaukee, is credited with helping create Wisconsin’s school choice program and establishing the African American Education Council. State officials took to social media to pay tribute to the woman who served in the Assembly for three decades, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1zGDEqy ) reported.

“She was a fierce fighter and did what she believed was right for African-American kids living in poverty and was relentless in her fight on the educational front,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who served with Williams in the Assembly during the 1980s, said Sunday night. “She didn’t care if she was fighting Republicans or Democrats, she was going to do what she thought was right.”

Williams served in the 10th District, which has one of the highest percentages of African-American residents in the state. She created the African American Education Council to give black residents the chance to shape reform within Milwaukee Public Schools.

“Tonight, Wisconsin lost a legend. Annette Polly Williams was a political powerhouse, fearless in her convictions and steadfast in her commitment to her constituents,” U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said on Twitter.



Assistant Assembly Democratic Leader Sandy Pasch of Shorewood said Williams’ commitment to education for all students was “unwavering.”

“Polly Williams will be remembered as a hard-working, thoughtful, insightful and compassionate legislator who will be sorely missed in her community,” Pasch said in a statement Monday.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who served with Williams in the Assembly, said Monday she was “dedicated to her district, to her community, and most importantly, to the students who benefited from her work on school choice.”

Williams backed the school choice program, even though it often put her at odd with her fellow Democrats, and was instrumental to its creation in 1989.

“There would be no parent choice movement had it not been for the courage of Polly Williams. She was the definition of a warrior,” Former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Howard Fuller said in a tweet Sunday.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed she died Sunday but did not provide a cause of death.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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