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State mourns death of Senator Teresa P. Hughes

Stanley O. Williford | 11/16/2011, 5 p.m.

Teresa P. Hughes, the second African American woman elected to the California Legislature, first as an assemblywoman and later as a state senator, will be memorialized on Monday at Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 W. Adams Blvd., in Los Angeles.

A resident of Castro Valley, Hughes, 80, died Sunday after a sudden illness, said her husband, Dr. Frank Staggers Sr.

The New York City native, who grew up in Harlem, came to California in 1969 after receiving a bachelor's degree in physiology and public health from Hunter College in New York, where she also did graduate work in sociology. She earned two degrees in education administration--a master's from New York University and a Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate School.

In New York, Hughes had been a teacher and social worker. In Los Angeles, she became an assistant professor of education at Cal State L.A. and worked as an administrative assistant to then-state Sen. Mervyn Dymally, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Hughes, a Democrat, was elected to represent the 47th District in the Assembly during a special election in 1975, easily defeating her Republican opponent. The district included a sizable portion of South Los Angeles, and the cities of Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Downey and Compton.

Throughout her 25 years in the California Legislature, her focus was primarily on education. Among her achievements was a bill dedicating $800 million in bond money to construct school classrooms and creation of a state school of the arts. She also authored the bill that created the California Museum of African American History and Culture, known as CAAM.

" ... Hughes served for 17 years before successfully running for the 25th Senate District in 1992. When Hughes took office in 1975, she was the 16th woman to have ever served in the Legislature," says the Online Archive of California.

"Sen. Hughes was a great representative of the people who elected her, and even moreso of the children in her district and throughout this state who had no vote," said state Sen. Roderick Wright. "She will be greatly missed, but warmly remembered for her efforts to improve quality of life for all Californians."

"I am saddened to learn about the passing of former California Sen. Teresa Hughes, whom I admired during her time in office and when I was elected to serve in the California State Assembly's 47th District ...," said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass. "Sen. Hughes was committed to improving the quality of life for Los Angeles residents during her time in office and was instrumental in collaborating with Community Coalition to decrease the number of liquor stores in South Los Angeles. As I join other Angelenos in celebrating the life of former Sen. Hughes, we will remember her as an inspirational and dedicated leader for Los Angeles."