JULIA CARSON, 69
Rep. Julia Carson, the first African-American and first woman to represent Indianapolis in Congress, died of lung cancer yesterday in Indianapolis, family spokeswoman Vanessa Summer said.
Ms. Carson's death came three weeks after she announced that the terminal cancer had been diagnosed, after years of health trouble. She said days later that she would not run next year for a seventh term representing the district that covers most of Indianapolis. She had not been in Washington since September, when she was hospitalized with a leg infection.
Ms. Carson was first elected to Congress in 1996. 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, an Indiana Democrat, 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 U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Ms. Carson told hundreds of people at a rally in downtown Indianapolis that it was an act of aggression, only to protect U.S. oil interests.
"We should have learned by the Vietnam War, but we did not," she said.
Ms. Carson was born to a single mother who worked as a housekeeper. She graduated in 1955 from the same segregated high school as basketball star Oscar Robertson.
She began her political career in the 1960s when Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr. hired her to work in his office. Mr. Jacobs encouraged Ms. 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 in 1996 after Mr. Jacobs retired.
Suffering 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 the hospital -- but still won re-election by 10 percentage points.
Gov. Mitch Daniels will call a special election to choose a replacement for the last year of Ms. Carson's term. Funeral arrangements were pending.