The nation is in shock after the sudden death of New Jersey's lieutenant governor.
Democrat Sheila Oliver Jr., 71, died Tuesday after being rushed to the hospital the day before. The cause wasn't announced.
Oliver was serving as the state's governor while her boss, Phil Murphy (D), was away in Italy on vacation.
The family shared the sad news in a statement.
"It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey," the family said. "She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero."
Members of both parties are remembering Oliver as a leader in the state's politics. New Jersey congressman Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat, said he was "shocked" by the "devastating news," calling Oliver "one of the foremost leaders of our great state for decades."
Governor Murphy called her a "trailblazer" and said appointing her was "the best decision I ever made," while former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said it was "a sad day for NJ and for me personally."
"I will miss Sheila. She served as Speaker in my first term and we treated each other with kindness and respect," Christie said. "She was a great person and partner."
Oliver began her political journey on the county board in Essex County, also serving as president of the school board in East Orange.
She unsuccessfully sought election as mayor in East Orange, where she lived for much of her life, before entering the state legislature.
It was there that the Newark native became a political force, serving as Speaker of the Assembly for a period. She was the first black woman in the role.
"She was the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly -- the second Black woman in our country to lead a legislative chamber -- and the first woman of color elected to statewide office in New Jersey," Democratic national committee (DNC) chairman Jaime Harrison said.
New Jersey did not have a Lt. governor for most of its history until 2006, when voters approved a constitutional amendment creating the office. Oliver was the second person in history to serve in the role.