SALEM, Ore. — Oregon state Senator Jackie Winters has died, according to statements from her colleagues in the legislature. She was 82 years old, and had been battling cancer.
"Thankfully, Senator Winters, known as the soul of the Oregon Legislature, was able to watch and listen last week as her crowning legislative achievement, Senate Bill 1008, Juvenile Justice Reform, passed the House of Representatives," her Office said in a brief statement.
Sen. Winters had most recently been leading the Republican minority in the Senate. In 1998 she became the first African-American Republican to be elected to the state legislature. She became a Senator in 2002 before rising up the ranks of the Republican Caucus.
Statements honoring Winters soon came pouring out from public figures on both sides of the aisle — highlighting her strength, dedication, and enduring bipartisanship.
“We are saddened at the passing of Sen. Jackie Winters, a true pioneer, stateswoman and valiant leader. For many years, Sen. Winters embodied the spirit of Oregon, overcoming obstacles, setting a course for others to follow and bridging divides. Oregon has lost a truly great legislator and remarkable woman,” said House Republican Leader Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass) in a statement.
"Senator Jackie Winters has been a bastion of integrity, justice, and common sense in the Oregon Legislature since she first took her seat in 1999," said Governor Kate Brown. "Her commitment to service knew no bounds. It shone through in every project she took on and every issue she tackled."
“Oregon has lost a true giant today, and our hearts are heavy. I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jackie for over 20 years, and she was always a steadfast champion for children, for families, and for justice . . . She was the epitome of working with all and a master of bipartisanship! She will be missed by all who serve here in the Capitol, her community, and her family. She was a true and dedicated public servant, and Oregon is better because she dedicated her life to public service," said Secretary of State Bev Clarno.
"Jackie was what was good in public service and in everyday life. She was always trying to make things better for all Oregonians, on all fronts. She was a noble soul," said Senate President Peter Courtney. "She was a pioneering woman in the Oregon Legislature, a true historical figure. I’ve lost my partner in public service. The Legislature and Oregon has lost a dedicated servant. We’ve lost the best of the best."
This is a developing story, and NewsWatch 12 will update this article with more details as they emerge.