Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first Black woman to represent Ohio in Congress and a formidable political pundit this campaign season, died Wednesday evening, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital. She was 58.

Tubbs Jones was driving in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday evening when her car veered across several lanes. The officer who reached her vehicle reported that he found her in medical distress.

Earlier reports indicated that she had died. But then Dr. Gus Kious, chief of staff at Huron Hospital in East Cleveland, Ohio, said in a live televised news conference that Tubbs Jones was in critical condition with very limited brain function. The hospital representative told Tubbs Jones died at 6:12 p.m. EST.

Tubbs Jones, who was a superdelegate, was slated to be an important presence at next week’s Democratic National Convention. During the fight for the Democratic nominee seat between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Tubbs Jones often served as a Clinton surrogate on television news shows. “I’m going to listen to my constituency and take that into consideration, but right now I’m committed to Hillary Clinton,” she told ESSENCE in our June 2008 issue.

Tubbs Jones was in her fifth term in office and, according to The Plain Dealer, was expected to easily win her sixth in November. A public servant for 26 years, she sat on the Ways and Means Committee and was an active member of several congressional caucuses, including the Congressional Black Caucus. She was the first African-American and the first female to become a prosecutor in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County. She was also the first African-American woman to sit on the Common Pleas bench in Ohio and spent a number of years as a municipal court judge in her hometown of Cleveland.

A graduate of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, Tubbs Jones received her law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1974. She was also an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

She was married to Mervyn L. Jones, Sr., for 27 years before his passing in 2003. She is survived by her son, Mervyn Leroy Jones, II.

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