Longtime Alaska lawmaker Bettye Davis has passed away at the age of 80.

In one of his first official acts as governor, Mike Dunleavy ordered state flags lowered to half-staff for Davis effective Dec. 31, when their current time at half-staff ends in memory of former president George H.W. Bush.

“Bettye Davis was an Alaskan trailblazer,” Dunleavy said in a statement Monday evening. “She will always be remembered for her steadfast dedication and determination to help children and improve Alaska’s public education system.”

An Anchorage School Board member confirmed the news of Davis' death on Monday. Davis resigned from her second consecutive school board term in September due to health concerns, also citing her desire to spend more time with family.

On Monday afternoon, an Anchorage School Board statement said Davis "will be remembered as an honorable and respected Anchorage School Board member and as the incredible woman she was."

"Her work for Alaska's education system has increased student achievement and has benefited Alaska tremendously," district officials wrote. "Our condolences go to Bettye's family."

Davis served her community her entire professional life, first as a social worker and then in different capacities as an elected official. She broke down racial barriers, becoming the first black Alaskan elected to the state House of Representatives, serving from 1990-1996. Davis was also Alaska's first black state senator from 2000-2012. Blanche McSmith was appointed by Gov. Bill Egan and served prior to Davis.

Davis was considered a champion of equal rights for women and minorities, and had a tremendous passion for education. These issues were key in legislation she crafted.

Davis also served multiple terms spanning three decades on the Anchorage School Board, with her last run starting in 2013. 

The school board honored Davis' life of public service at an event in October.

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