Sen. Florence Howard Pendleton (D), who represented the District of Columbia in the Senate from 1990-2007, died on Sept. 10. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor

Although she was born in Columbus, Georgia, Sen. Florence Howard Pendleton (D), broke barriers and fought for justice and freedom in her adopted hometown of D.C., becoming the first Black woman U.S. Senator (unseated) and one of the first people ever elected to represent the District of Columbia in the Senate.  Pendleton died peacefully at her home in Columbus on Sept. 10. She was 94.

Receiving her Bachelors and Masters degrees from Howard University, Pendleton made the nation’s capital her home for 55 years, worked as an administrator in D.C. Public Schools for over four decades and fought passionately for the rights of its residents.

Though D.C. has no voting rights in the Senate, Pendleton along, with Jesse Jackson Sr., were the first District of Columbia Senators, an unpaid and often thankless position, as the role has no weight beyond its title and hopeful influence. Despite the lack of monetary compensation, Pendleton served as Shadow Senator from 1990-2007– 10 years after Jackson ended his tenure in the Senate.

As the District’s Shadow Senator, Pendleton was very outspoken about equal rights and, in particular, D.C. statehood.

“We’re going to get because we’re gaining strength as we go along,” Pendleton said in 1993 at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, which was attended by then President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. 

As the District’s fight for statehood moves closer to achieving its goal, organizations such as Free DC and leaders such as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser are celebrating Pendleton’s life and legacy.

“I look back on Senator Pendleton’s service with gratitude and appreciation for all that she did to further our goal of D.C. statehood,” Bowser wrote on Sept. 16.


Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor