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Former Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright Dies

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright died Wednesday at the age of 84, her family announced.

Albright, who served in the position from 1997-2001 during the presidency of Bill Clinton, was the first woman to serve in the role. In recent years, she worked as a professor at Georgetown University and served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“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. She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend,” the Albright family said in a statement. (RELATED: Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn Dies Of Cancer At Age 59, Wife Says)

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937, Albright was the daughter of Josef Korbel, a diplomat who later served as the Czechoslovak ambassador to Yugoslavia. Although Albright was raised Catholic, she later learned that she had Jewish grandparents who died in the Holocaust. The Korbel family fled the Nazis in 1939 to London, where her father worked for the exiled government and as a broadcaster for the BBC. They later returned to Prague before fleeing to the U.S. in the aftermath of the 1948 communist coup.

Albright got her start in politics working on the 1972 presidential campaign of Democratic Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie. She was then hired as his chief legislative assistant. Albright went on to work as congressional liaison to national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who advised her on her doctorate at Columbia University.

During her time as secretary of state, Albright was one of the chief advocates for the use of American force to halt the Yugoslav campaign in Kosovo. More than 13,000 people died in the conflict.

Albright was also the first secretary of state to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

Albright worked on several Democratic presidential campaigns. In addition to the Muskie campaign, she served as a foreign policy adviser to New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro when Ferraro was the running mate for Walter Mondale in 1984 and as an adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988. She also served as a high-profile surrogate for Hillary Clinton in 2016.