RICHMOND, Va. – U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, who represented southeastern Virginia for seven years, died Saturday morning after a two-year battle with breast cancer, her office said.
Davis, 57, died at her home in Gloucester.
Davis, a Republican, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and had a reoccurrence earlier this year. Her health took a turn for the worse during the past week, her office said.
"Her determination to fight the disease is an inspiration to all of us," President Bush said in a statement.
"Over the course of her four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, she was an effective advocate for the people of her district and a strong supporter of our men and women in uniform," Bush said. "She was a fine example of a public servant who worked hard to cut government waste to ensure the people's money was used wisely. Her common sense values will be missed on Capitol Hill."
Davis was first elected to Congress in 2000, and was a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Her first piece of legislation, passed by the House in 2001, increased the life insurance benefit paid to survivors of military members killed on duty.
"Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis made history when she became the first female Republican elected to the House of Representatives from the commonwealth in 2000," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, said in a statement. "She inspired Virginians as she battled breast cancer while continuing to serve the commonwealth."
The governor will schedule a special election, likely before the end of the year, to fill the remaining year of Davis' term, Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said.
Before Congress, Davis served four years in the Virginia House of Delegates. She was a former real estate broker and a horse enthusiast.
She underwent chemotherapy treatments and a mastectomy when she was first diagnosed in 2005. When her cancer returned, she underwent chemotherapy again and often monitored hearings from home. Her chief of staff, Chris Connelly, said in June that Davis intended to seek re-election in 2008.
"Even as she battled through her own personal adversity, Jo Ann saw her illness as an opportunity to help others and raise awareness for this disease," said U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, R-2nd. "Her efforts will live on through the lives that she touched."
A conservative who came from modest means, Davis was known for her unquenchable inquisitiveness and how quickly and deeply she learned about any legislative issue.
"I always admired Congresswoman Davis' strong convictions and the tenacity that she brought to bear in acting on them," U.S. Sen. John W. Warner said.
Davis attended Hampton Roads Business College and obtained her real estate license in 1984 and her real estate broker's license four years later. In 1990, she opened her own business, Jo Ann Davis Realty.
Her husband, Chuck Davis, was a battalion chief for the Hampton Fire Department. They have two grown sons and a granddaughter.