Madeleine Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State passed away on Wednesday, her family has confirmed.
She was 84 years old.
Albright, who fled the Nazis as a child in her native Czechoslovakia during the Second World War, was the first woman to hold that position.
Albright was a tough-talking diplomat in an administration that hesitated to involve itself in the two biggest foreign policy crises of the 1990s: the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today. The cause was cancer,” her family said on Twitter.
Albright was born in the former Czechoslovakia in 1937. She was nominated to become the first woman secretary of state, confirmed unanimously in 1997. She was in the post until 2001.
Outpourings of condolences came quickly followed the news of Albright’s death.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton called her “one of the finest Secretaries of State, an outstanding U.N. Ambassador, a brilliant professor, and an extraordinary human being,” as he took to Twitter to express his condolences.
“Because she knew firsthand that America’s policy decisions had the power to make a difference in people’s lives around the world, she saw her jobs as both an obligation and an opportunity,” Clinton wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.
“And through it all, even until our last conversation just two weeks ago, she never lost her great sense of humor or her determination to go out with her boots on, supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve freedom and democracy.”
Barack Obama called Albright a “champion for democratic values.”
In a statement shared on Twitter, Obama wrote: “It is because of people like Madeleine that the story of America, is ultimately one of hope – an upward journey. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Albright family and everyone who knew and served with a truly remarkable woman.”
“Laura and I are heartbroken by the news of Madeleine Albright’s death,” former President George W. Bush said. “She lived out the American dream and helped others realize it…. She served with distinction as a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world. I respect her love of country and public service, and Laura and I are grateful to have called Madeline Albright our friend.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. envoy to the United Nations, referred to Albright as a “trailblazer and a luminary” in remarks on the General Assembly floor shortly after news of her death surfaced.
“The impact that she has had on this building is felt every single day and just about every single corridor,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price, who once co-taught a class with Albright at his alma mater, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where Albright was a professor for decades before and after her time in government.
“She was a trailblazer as the first female Secretary of State and quite literally opened doors for a large elements of our of our workforce,” he said.
Later in the day, U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement, saying working with Albright during the 1990s was “among the highlights of my career.”
“Madeleine Albright was a force,” he wrote. “Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.”
— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press