Rep. Julia Carson; Indiana Democrat Opposed Iraq War
U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, the first African American and the first woman to represent Indianapolis in Congress, died Dec. 15 of lung cancer at her home in Indianapolis. She was 69.
Rep. Carson's death came three weeks after she announced she had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and followed years of health troubles. Last month, she said she would not run for a seventh term.
Rep. Carson (D) was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, representing a district that covers most of Indianapolis. She championed children's issues, women's rights and efforts to reduce homelessness and was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq.
"Julia Carson overcame much and accomplished much, and devoted her life to helping other people do the same," Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said in a statement. "She was elected to important public offices, but never forgot who she was, where she came from or who she was there to serve."
Weeks before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Rep. Carson told hundreds of people at a rally in downtown Indianapolis that it was an act of aggression to protect U.S. oil interests.
"Truly, it is all in the name of greed and truly in the name of war," she said. "We should have learned by the Vietnam War, but we did not."
Rep. Carson was born in Louisville to a single mother who worked as a housekeeper. She moved to Indianapolis as an infant and graduated in 1955 from the same segregated high school as basketball star Oscar Robertson. She attended a business college and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
An early marriage ended in divorce, and she raised two children as a single mother while working as a secretary with the United Auto Workers.
She began her political career in the 1960s when then-Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. hired her to work in his office. Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana Legislature in 1972 -- the first of more than two dozen victories in local, legislative and congressional elections. She ran for Congress after Jacobs retired.
Health concerns followed her throughout her career. In January 1997, she took her congressional oath of office in an Indianapolis hospital, where she had had double-bypass surgery.
Last year, after being elected for her sixth term in the House, she said: "People thought I was too sick to run. I'm not too sick for anything."
In recent years, Rep. Carson had suffered from high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. She missed dozens of House votes in 2004 because of illness and spent the weekend before the 2004 election in a hospital for what she said was a flu shot reaction, but she still won reelection by 10 percentage points.
Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (R) will call a special election to choose a replacement for the last year of the congresswoman's term.
Survivors include two children and two grandchildren.
-- From news services and staff reports