Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first black woman to represent Ohio in Congress and a strong critic of the Iraq war, died Wednesday after a brain hemorrhage, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Tubbs Jones, 58, died Wednesday evening of a brain hemorrhage caused by an aneurysm that burst and left her with limited brain function, said Eileen Sheil, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic, which owns the Huron Hospital in East Cleveland where Tubbs Jones died.
"Throughout the course of the day and into this evening, Congresswoman Tubbs Jones’ medical condition declined," Sheil said in a statement from the clinic and Tubbs Jones’ family.
The liberal Democrat, first elected in 1998, suffered the hemorrhage while driving her car in Cleveland Heights Tuesday night, said Dr. Gus Kious, president of Huron Hospital. The car went out of control and crossed lanes of traffic before coming to a stop, police said. An officer found the ailing lawmaker.
A brain aneurysm is a bulge in an artery in the brain. It can leak or rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.
Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, had reported earlier in the day that Tubbs Jones had died. That report, citing a Democratic official, was corrected a few minutes later when a hospital official held a news conference to say she was in critical condition.
Tubbs Jones represented the heavily Democratic 11th District and chaired the ethics committee in the House. She was the first black woman to serve on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, where she opposed President Bush’s tax cuts and his efforts to create personal accounts within Social Security.
"After making history as the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, the congresswoman worked to expand the rights of all Americans," President Bush said in tribute. "Our nation is grateful for her service."
Tubbs Jones was a firm supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primaries until throwing her support behind Sen. Barack Obama in June. She was to have been a superdelegate at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.
The Clinton family released a statement saying they shared a friendship with Tubbs Jones that "deepened through every trial and challenge."
"Over the course of many years, with many ups and many downs, Stephanie was right by our side — unwavering, indefatigable," the statement said. "It was that fighting spirit … that allowed Stephanie to rise from modest beginnings, to succeed in public service, to become a one-woman force for progress in our country."
Obama called Tubbs Jones "an extraordinary American and an outstanding public servant."
"It wasn’t enough for her just to break barriers in her own life. She was also determined to bring opportunity to all those who had been overlooked and left behind — and in Stephanie, they had a fearless friend and unyielding advocate," Obama said in a statement.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who also represents Cleveland, was visibly upset Wednesday night when he left Huron Hospital. He held the hand of his wife, Elizabeth, as he recalled Tubbs Jones’ energy and spirit.
"She poured her heart and soul into her job," Kucinich said. "She worked so hard and gave everything she could. I’m devastated. Wherever we’d go, we’d speak of each other as brother and sister. It’s an incalculable loss."
Tubbs Jones was a passionate opponent of the Iraq war, voting in 2002 against authorizing the use of military force.
Just as the war was starting in March 2003, she was one of only 11 House members to oppose a resolution supporting U.S. troops in Iraq. She said she did so because the resolution connected Iraq to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and said Iraq poses a continued threat to the United States.
Neither of those claims had been proved, she said, adding that was why the United States couldn’t persuade the United Nations to support an attack.
In 2005, Tubbs Jones opposed certifying President Bush’s re-election because of questionable electoral results in her home state.
Tubbs Jones was known as an outspoken, gregarious lawmaker who wore bright colors and displayed her congressional pin on a gold necklace.
She was a fiery speaker who could inspire crowds at political rallies, as she did while introducing former President Clinton when he campaigned for his wife in January in suburban Cleveland.
Tubbs Jones had served as a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge and prosecutor before running for political office.
Addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Tubbs Jones recalled her parents, who "punched a clock day in and day out — one as a skycap, the other as a factory worker," until the day they saw their daughter representing their hometown as a congresswoman.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.