I was sad to hear of the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, (D-OH). The Congresswoman was another one of the real characters I met on the Presidential campaign trail this year. To my good fortune, I had a great interview with her the night Hillary Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.
I saw Jones in action for the first time the night before. She spoke at a rally for Sen. Hillary Clinton at the University of Pennsylvania. You have to understand, not only did Hillary speak that night, but so did daughter Chelsea; husband Bill; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; and Philly Mayor Michael Nutter.
But the lady who stole the show, was Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who came from Cleveland, Ohio to help the Clintons. Six weeks earlier, her support in Ohio, helped Hillary Clinton stage a dramatic, come-from-behind win in the Ohio primary, effectively saving her entire campaign. Jones's support, in the predominantly African-American Cleveland district she represented, helped Clinton beat Barack Obama.
This was a very courageous show of support. There was tremendous pressure in many African-American communities to "circle the wagons" for Sen. Obama. Congresswoman Jones resisted the pressure, and simply voted her conscience. She felt Hillary Clinton would make a better President, irrespective of gender and race.
After the big 10 point win in Pennsylvania, I interviewed Rep. Jones about how far she was willing to go for Hillary Clinton: "My philosophy is we just take these one state at a time. I will be campaigning with President Clinton in North Carolina," she said. "Then I'm going to Indiana," Jones added. She personified the fact that Clinton was still popular among African Americans, especially women. She thought she could help Clinton carry enough of the black vote to win Indiana. Indeed, that's what happened. She valued loyalty, at a premium, something rare in American politics these days. And she graciously posed for the picture I took at the top of this blog!
I saw some of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones's fiery floor speeches in the U.S. House. While I often disagreed with her partisan politics, I respected her passion. I loved her story, too. She grew up in a working class family, with her dad a skycap at the Cleveland Airport. Despite economic hardships she made it through college and law school, and became a judge in Cleveland. She was then elected to five terms in Congress. She lived the American Dream!
My prayers are with her family. May God Bless Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and her service to this nation.