She was educated at the University of Redlands, from which she received a business degree. California State University, Los Angeles, from which she earned a masters in education. And the University of Southern California, from which she completed her doctorate.
On December 19, 2006, Millender-McDonald was named Chairwoman of the House Committee on House Administration for the 110th Congress. She was the first African-American woman to chair the committee. Millender-McDonald was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
She worked as a teacher, a textbook editor, and later as director of a nonprofit organization working for gender issues.
She was first elected to the House in a March 1996 special election to replace Congressman Walter Tucker, who resigned due to corruption charges and was later sentenced to 27 months in prison. In Congress, she was known for her commitment to protecting international human rights.
Millender-McDonald worked to aid victims of genocide and human trafficking. In 1996, she also led an inquiry into allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency was working with the cocaine industry to bankroll Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
Within a week of her requesting a leave of absence to deal with her illness, on April 22, 2007, Millender-McDonald died in hospice care, succumbing to colon cancer at the age of 68 at her home in Carson.
She left a husband, James McDonald, Junior., and five adult children. Under California law, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a special election date of June 26, and because no candidate received more than 50% of the total vote, the candidates with the most votes in their respective parties participated in an August 21 runoff. In the June Primary, State Senator Jenny Oropeza lost to State Assemblywoman Laura Richardson, with Richardson continuing to the August special election, when she defeated Republican John M. Kanaley, Libertarian Herb Peters, and Green Daniel Brezenoff.
Board directors South Carolina.L.C. Private Industry Council Policy Board, West Basin Municipal Water District, Cities Legislation League (vice chairman. Member National Women's Political Caucus. Member advisory board Comparative Ethnic Training University Southern California.
Founder, executive director Young Advocates Southern California. Member National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Education Association, National Association Minority Political Women, National Association of Female Executives, National Federation Business and Professional Women, Association California School Administrators, American Management Association, League African Women, Los Angeles World Affairs Council, National Female Executives, National Council Jewish Women, Carson Chamber of Commerce, Phi Delta Kappa.
Married James McDonald III, July 26, 1955. Children: Valeria, Angela, Sherryll, Michael, Roderick.