From 1980 to 1986, Bass was married to Jesus Lechuga. Following their divorce, Bass and Lechuga jointly raised their daughter and her siblings, Bass’s four stepchildren, Scythia, Omar, Yvette, and Ollin, together.
Her daughter, Emilia Bass-Lechuga, and son-in-law, Michael Wright, were killed in a car accident in 2006.
Karen Ruth Bass was born October 3, 1953. An astute American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California’s 37th congressional district since 2013.
From 2011 to 2013, she was the U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd congressional district. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served for six years in the California State Assembly, the last two as its Speaker.
On November 28, 2018, Bass was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) during the 116th Congress.
She also serves as Chair of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Before her election to Congress, Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly (2004–2010).
In 2008, she was elected to serve as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first African American woman in United States history to serve as a Speaker of a state legislative body.
For her leadership during the worst recession California had faced since the Great Depression, she, alongside three other legislative leaders with whom she worked, was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2010.
Bass is on the shortlist to become Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate in 2020.
Bass was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Wilhelmina (née Duckett) and DeWitt Talmadge Bass.
Her father was a postal letter carrier and her mother was a homemaker. She was raised in the Venice and Fairfax neighborhoods of Los Angeles and graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in 1971.
Witnessing the civil rights movement on television with her father as a child sparked her interest in community activism.
While in middle school, Bass began volunteering for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign. In the mid-1970’s she was an organizer for the Venceremos Brigade, a pro-Cuban group.
She went on to study philosophy at San Diego State University, and graduated from the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.
She then earned a bachelor of science degree in health sciences from California State University, Dominguez Hills. She also received her master’s in social work from the University of Southern California.
In the 1980s, while working as a physician assistant and a clinical instructor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC Physician Assistant Program, Bass witnessed the impact of the crack epidemic in South Los Angeles.
After attending “Crack: The Death of a Race”, a San Francisco conference hosted by Cecil Williams, she decided to organize a response.
In the late 1980s, Bass and other local community organizers founded Community Coalition, an organization with a mission to help transform the social and economic conditions in South Los Angeles that foster addiction, crime, violence, and poverty by building a community institution that involves thousands in creating, influencing, and changing public policy.
Since its founding, Community Coalition has blocked the construction of liquor stores and encouraged construction of small businesses, affordable housing, and nonprofits.
It has also secured funding for low-income students in middle and high schools in Los Angeles Unified School District. Community Coalition activists spoke at the March for Our Lives rally in 2018.