Cardiss Collins, who served in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1997, died Feb. 3 in Alexandria, Va.
Congresswoman Collins was born Sept. 24, 1931 in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to Detroit at the age of ten. She graduated from the Detroit High School of Commerce and attended Northwestern University. She has received honorary degrees from Barber-Scotia College, Spelman College, and Winston-Salem State University. She also has received awards from both Loyola University and Roosevelt University in Chicago, as well as numerous other awards and commendations. In 1990, the Congressional Black Caucus presented Mrs. Collins with the William L. Dawson Award for Legislative Development in recognition of her legislative agenda and successes.
She was an outgoing fun-loving person who enjoyed her family, friends and colleagues.
Mrs. Collins was first elected to Congress on June 5, 1973 in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by her husband, Congressman George W. Collins, who was killed in an airplane crash. A trailblazer, she was the first African-American woman to represent a Congressional district in the Midwest, the first woman and first African-American to serve as Democratic Whip-at-Large. She was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 96th Congress.
In 1991, she became the first woman, and first African-American to chair a subcommittee to the Committee on Energy and Commerce when she was named Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Competitiveness. In January, 1993, she was elected to serve a second term as chair of this subcommittee.
Mrs. Collins was also a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Her investigations of college sports resulted in increased pressure on colleges and universities to carry out the mandates of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which calls for equal opportunities for women athletes to participate in collegiate sports and to improve graduation rates of athletes.
Congresswoman Collins was a long-time advocate for universal health insurance. She cosponsored the Universal Health Care Act of 1991, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1991. She also authored legislation to create the Office of Minority Health in the National Institute of Health.
For three years, the House adopted Mrs. Collins’ resolutions designating October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Mrs. Collins wrote the 1990 law which expanded Medicare coverage for screening mammography for millions of elderly and disabled women and sponsored the Medicaid Infant Mortality Act of 1991. She also sponsored legislation which expanded Medicaid coverage for PAP smears for early detection of cervical and uterine cancer.
She authored the Child Safety Protection Act of 1993, legislation requiring warning labels on dangerous toys and federal safety standards for bicycle helmets. She also wrote the Armored Car Industry Reciprocity Act of 1993 to allow armored car crew members to lawfully carry firearms for security of valuable goods during interstate transportation.
Investigations by Mrs. Collins into child care facilities and services offered to federal employees resulted in more than a three-fold increase in the number of child care centers for federal workers. Child care legislation developed by Mrs. Collins, together with other member of Congress, became law in 1990.
As chair of the Government Activities and Transportation (GAT) Subcommittee from 1983 to 1991, Congresswoman Collins pushed ground breaking laws controlling the transport of toxic materials and led the charge to provide safer and more secure air travel. Findings from an investigation led by Mrs. Collins of the nation’s aviation security system led to adoption of the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990.
Mrs. Collins was a member of the Friendship Baptist Church of Chicago, as well as the Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va.; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Chicago Urban League; the Links; the Coalition of 100 Black Women the Black Women’s Agenda; the National council of Negro Women; the Alpha Kappa Alpha and Alpha Gamma Phi Sororities; secretary of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues; and Vice Chairman, the Congressional Black Caucus.
She leaves one son, Kevin, a granddaughter Candice and a host of friends.