Vel Phillips, a civil rights leader and the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in Wisconsin, has died, according to Dem officials. She was 94.
Phillips won a seat on the Milwaukee Common Council in 1956 and pushed for an ordinance to outlaw discrimination in housing. She later served as a judge and then won the secretary of state’s office in 1978. She lost her bid for re-election in the 1982 Dem primary, falling to Doug La Follette, who had given up the seat four years earlier to run for lt. guv.
“Her spirit is with all of us, in Wisconsin and the nation, as we proudly continue the fight she took to the streets despite horrific abuse for civil rights, equality and justice,” said state Dem Chair Martha Laning. “Her legacy and strength in the face of hatred and injustice stays with us now as we continue her march.”
Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm last night tweeted, “Saddened to learn that Vel Phillips, Wisconsin’s first African-American judge and statewide official, passed away this evening. My deepest condolences to her family, including my colleague Assistant District Attorney Mike Phillips, who continues his mother’s work for justice.”