Family of former U.S. Congresswoman believe death may have been medical malpractice

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Former U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a trailblazer and dedicated public servant, died at 89. Kirk Johnson, her son, confirmed her death on Sunday, Dec. 31.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

But on Thursday, Jan. 4, family members held a press conference indicating that they believe Johnson’s death may have been caused by medical malpractice.

To view the press conference, see the clip above.

Johnson had been recently admitted to hospice care and left behind a legacy of remarkable achievements and contributions to the nation.

Kirk Johnson highlighted his mother’s accomplishments as a trailblazer, public servant, and remarkable family member in a statement that the family released to express their sorrow over her passing. The family acknowledged the mourning of an extraordinary woman while celebrating her life and legacy. 

“I am heartbroken to share the news that my mother, Eddie Bernice Johnson, has passed away,” Kirk Johnson said.

“She was a remarkable and loving mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great-grandmother, as well as a trailblazer and public servant.

While we mourn the loss of an extraordinary woman, we celebrate her life and legacy. She will be deeply missed.”

The younger Johnson said funeral services are pending.

Eddie Bernice Johnson was born to Edward and Lillie Mae Johnson in Waco, Texas. She graduated from A.J. Moore High School and earned her nursing certificate from Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame in 1955. According to the Texas Metro News, Johnson furthered her education at Texas Christian University, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She earned a Master of Public Administration from Southern Methodist University in 1976.

Johnson championed STEM, women’s rights, veterans, fair housing, transportation, and the Affordable Care Act throughout her career. She was a founding member of the tri-Caucus (CBC, CHC, and CAPAC) and the Dallas Coalition of Hunger Solutions. Noted Ambassador Ron Kirk highlighted Johnson’s numerous firsts, including being the first African American to serve as Chief Psychiatric Nurse at the Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital.

In her political career, Johnson served in the Texas House and Senate, becoming the first African American woman in Dallas to be elected to office. When she went to Washington, she became the first registered nurse to ever serve in Congress. She was an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Girlfriends Circlets, and Links, Inc.

Johnson was the first African American and first female chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. She was also the first African American to serve as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare regional director, appointed by then-President Jimmy Carter.

Before her retirement, Johnson’s portrait was unveiled and hung in the Science Committee Room. The program for STEM women has also been named in her honor. Upon her retirement at the end of the 117th session, she was the oldest member of the House of Representatives.

The Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford (NV-04) and members of the CBC issued a statement mourning the loss of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. 

“Among her many accomplishments in the Texas State Legislature as a nurse and member of Congress, Congresswoman Johnson was perhaps best-known to those close to her as a mother, wife, and friend, and she will be greatly missed,” CBC members stated. “She leaves a legacy and a lifetime of public service that will not soon be forgotten.”

They acknowledged her groundbreaking achievements, including being the first Black woman elected to Congress from Dallas and her role as the first African American and first female Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Johnson’s impact extended beyond legislation; she delivered hundreds of millions of dollars toward revitalizing transportation in Texas, notably for the Southern Gateway Project and the DART Rail System. The DART and Amtrak rail centers in Dallas were renamed the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station in her honor.

Johnson’s multifaceted career included being a mother, wife, and friend in addition to a public servant, leaving a void that those who knew her will feel deeply. “Her legacy as a trailblazer and advocate for justice, equality, and progress will endure,” CBC members asserted.

TSD Interim Editor Lee Eric Smith contributed breaking news to this report.