I was lucky enough to meet with Congresswoma Carson and her staff on the Hill. I can assure you she and her staff were always welcoming and prepared on your issues whether in person or on the phone.
1938 - 2007
Congresswoman Julia Carson dies
By Mary Beth Schneider
December 15, 2007
U.S. Rep. Julia Carson died at home this morning following a battle with lung cancer. She was 69.
Carson’s death comes just weeks after she announced the cancer, which she had beaten before, was back with “terminal vengeance.”
Two days later, she said she would not seek re-election to a seventh term in 2008, saying her time away from Congress would be “a time to weep and a time to laugh,” and she added, “a time to heal.”
But Carson, who was first elected to Congress in 1996, never healed.
“Who knows the future, who knows god’s will,” she said in the statement announcing her decision not to run again. “I want very much to return to Washington and continue representing the good people of Indianapolis with my vote. I can only request your prayers that I might gain the strength to continue my service.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels' office said tentative plans were under way to have Carson’s body lie in state at the Rotunda in the Indiana State House. Daniels ordered that flags be lowered today until sunset on the day of her burial. Calling was tentatively scheduled for Friday, with the funeral service on Saturday.
Former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs, who was Carson’s friend and mentor, said he was called about 9:45 this morning and notified she had died at her home about a half-hour earlier.
“I loved her and she loved me,” Jacobs said, his voice cracking. “She was my sister.”
He last saw his friend Friday, he said, and was able to kiss her goodbye.
About a week ago, Jacobs said, “when she still recognized me, she started silently signalling with her right hand, waving it toward her. I bent down — closer, closer, closer — till I was next to her face. And for the first time ever, she reached up and kissing me warmly on the cheek. I knew exactly what she meant. She was kissing me goodbye.”
Now, he said, people will realize the contributions she has made that she never boasted about before, and what he called “a really prodigious career of that huge brain in that cranium.”
“She was a pretty modest person,” he said. “She didn’t say much about her enormous accomplishments.”
Among those accomplishments, he said, were welfare reforms as Center Township trustee, before she succeeded him in Congress.
“Her welfare reforms did not break one child’s heart,” he said.
Instead, he said, she teamed up with former U.S. Attorney Virginia Dill McCarty and “when she found a welfare cheat, she didn’t just take off the rolls. She sued them to get money back for the taxpayer.”
Daniels called Carson “a lioness.”
“There was determination, and resolve, and genuine conviction in Julia, but never meanness. And she was such fun. It was rare to leave her presence without a smile. And after the sadness fades a bit, we’ll still have that. I know I’ll think of her often, and always with a smile.”
U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said Carson “overcame much and accomplished much, and devoted her life to helping other people do the same.”
“She was elected to important public offices, but never forgot who she was, where she came from or who she was there to serve. She had a great sense of humor and a great sense of style, both of which are all too often lacking in public life.
“She has left a great legacy and I will miss her.”
Sarge Visher, who ran Carson’s first campaign for Congress and had worked with her since, said Carson was “proud of every single person she was able to help, even a little bit. Those were almost invisible, but we’d hear about them over the years. I don’t think she was interested in building monuments to herself, but instead doing things fundamentally Christian.”
Before heading to Congress, Carson served in the Indiana House of Representatives for two terms and was then elected to the Indiana Senate, where she served until 1990. Carson then filled the post of Center Township trustee until she went to Washington.
A steadfast Democrat, Carson opposed President Bush’s request for authority to wage war in 2002. In 1999, she won enactment of a measure that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights figure Rosa Parks.
In 1991 and 1974, she was named by The Star as Woman of the Year.
Carson’s death comes after she took a medical leave from Congress in September after complaining of leg pain and fatigue.
In her last public interview broadcast on Nov. 5 on the WTCL-AM program, “Afternoons with Amos,” Carson expressed frustration over her health problems. “I’m breathing and I feel fine,” she said. Her voice did sound shaky, though, and she had coughing spells during the interview.
“I’ve got bronchitis real bad now and I hope to get over it,” she said, “but you don’t ever know.”
Her health had been an issue almost from the day she was first elected to Congress.
In January of 1997, she took her oath of office at Methodist Hospital where she was recovering from a double-bypass surgery.
The surgery kept her at home during the early days of the 105th Congress and she missed 41 of the 640 floor votes that year.
After winning her sixth term last year, she proclaimed, “People thought I was too sick to run. I’m not too sick for anything.”
A special election would be held to choose Carson’s successor.
Potential Democrats who might run for her seat include Andre Carson, who is Carson’s grandson. Republicans who have said they will run for the seat include state Rep. Jon Elrod and probation officer Wayne Harmon.