Sheila Jackson Lee (1950-2024)

Sheila Jackson-Lee
Public domain image

Longtime Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was born on January 12, 1950 in Queens, New York. She graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens, New York in 1968.  She then graduated from Yale University in Connecticut with a B.A. in political science in 1972 followed in 1975 by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School.

After graduating from law school Jackson Lee moved to Houston, Texas after her husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee accepted a job offer from the University of Houston.  Dr. Lee was Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston.  Jackson Lee was in private practice from 1975 to 1987 when she was elected a Houston municipal judge.  Jackson Lee then ran for a seat on the Houston City Council in 1990.  In 1994 Shelia Jackson Lee was elected as a Democrat to represent the 18th Congressional District of Texas.

Jackson-Lee served on the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives and was the first vice-chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.  She was a strong advocate of civil rights and abortion rights.  She has also used her position in Congress to raise awareness about racism and poverty in Africa.  Jackson Lee was a particularly strong opponent of the genocide in Darfur and has backed sanctions against Sudan.   In April 2006, Jackson Lee was one of five members of Congress arrested, along with six other anti-genocide activists, while protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Jackson Lee was also the House Committee on Homeland Security and chairs its Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection.  Here the Congresswoman has called for increased security on rail and mass transit systems.  She also worked to improve security around the nation’s nuclear and chemical plants as well as the electric grid.  Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and the subcommittee that oversees space policy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In 2023 Congresswoman Jackson Lee ran an unsuccessful campaign to become mayor of Houston.  Despite the defeat, she remained in the U.S. Congress.  On July 12, 2024, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee died of cancer in Houston, Texas.  She was 74.