Monday, March 05, 2007

They Go in Threes

They Go in Threes

In recent weeks, St. Louis has lost three titans of local Democratic politics. As we prepare for a heated primary battle tomorrow, let us recall all three of their careers and contributions to building a better community and providing for the future we are living today.

Harriett Woods passed away Thursday, 2/8/07 at the age of 79. She was the first woman elected to a statewide office in Missouri, serving as Lieutenant Governor from 1984 to 1989. She started her political career as a City Council member in University City (where she lived much of her adult life) in 1967. She also served in the State Senate, from 1976 to 1984, and made several attempts at a U.S. Senate seat. She became a national figure in later years, heading the National Women's Political Caucus and President Clinton's Coalition for Women's Appointments. She also taught classes in the political science department at UMSL, where she founded the former Institute for Policy Leadership in 1989.

John Bass passed away Sunday, 2/25/07 at the age of 80. He served as the first African-American comptroller of the City of St. Louis (elected in 1973), and later as a State Senator from North St. Louis (1981 to 1991). Also during his career he served as principal of Beaumont High, City Department of Welfare director under Mayor Cervantes, 20th Ward alderman, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, and as a staff director of a Congressional subcommittee, owing to his close relationship with Congressman Bill Clay.

Tom Eagleton passed away Sunday, 3/4/07 at the age of 77. He was, of course, a U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1969 to 1987. He was also the youngest person ever elected Circuit Attorney in the City of St. Louis (at the age of 27, in 1956), and youngest ever Missouri Attorney General (elected in 1960, at the age of 31). He also served as Missouri Lieutenant Governor, before being elected to the U.S. Senate. He taught political science classes at Washington University after his retirement from the Senate; and was frequently part of a bipartisan team advocating for Missouri interests along with Republican Senator Jack Danforth. While Eagleton came from a privileged background, he was interested in many progressive causes, most recently as a prominent lay Catholic advocate of stem-cell research.

Harriett Woods, John Bass, and Tom Eagleton were roughly contemporaries, and all three were trailblazers and leaders in their own ways. St. Louis has lost quite a bit of its institutional and collective memory with the passing of these three leaders.

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