Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's first female governor who oversaw the state during the strikes and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, died Sunday afternoon. According to her family, she had been battling cancer. She was 76.
Blanco is survived by her husband, Raymond, six children and five grandchildren.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement on behalf of Blanco's family, praising her dedication to the state: "In her words, her public service provided an opportunity for her 'to be the voice of the voiceless; to shape the rising tide that lifts all boats; to advocate for policies and changes that make good common sense; and to have a positive impact on the lives of all people.'"
In the statement, she was described as "a woman of grace, faith and hope."
"While she knew that her name would forever be linked with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it was her dying wish that she be remembered for her faith in God, commitment to family and love of Louisiana," the statement said.
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was born Dec. 15, 1942, in New Iberia, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1964 and spent a long career in public service. She was the first woman to represent Lafayette in the Louisiana House of Representatives, serving from 1984 to 1989.
In 2018, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette honored Blanco with the creation of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center.
A member of the Democratic Party, Blanco served as the state's lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2004. She then served one term as the 54th governor of Louisiana from 2004 to 2008.
David Begnaud contributed to this report.