Representative Rory Ellinger, one of Missouri's most progressive Democratic voices, died Wednesday morning after battling aggressive liver cancer.
Ellinger made national headlines earlier this month when Governor Jay Nixon flew to Ellinger's University City district to sign his final bill -- vital and unanimously approved legislation to protect breastfeeding mothers -- into law.
"I hope that Rep. Ellinger realizes what a difference he's made for future Missourians with the passage of this bill," Diana Reese wrote for the Washington Post. "Sometimes lawmakers do the right thing."
UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.: Ellinger's daughter Maggie Ellinger says he was surrounded by family at home when he passed. The family is still organizing funeral arrangements, which will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday:
Ellinger announced in March that he would not seek re-election at the urging of his doctors. The 72-year-old legislator, lawyer and civil-rights advocate said he would instead serve the rest of his term, which ends in January.
UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.: Nixon has ordered that U.S. and Missouri flags in St. Louis County fly at half-staff until Ellinger's funeral, saying about Ellinger:
Rory Ellinger dedicated his passion, his energy and his career to helping lift all people up to their highest potential, and ensuring that we can all stand on equal ground and move together toward a brighter future. In one of his last official acts, just days ago, Rory joined me and his colleagues as I signed into law legislation he sponsored that will improve the health of countless Missouri mothers, children and their families. It was a testament to a life well lived that even as his own health declined, he worked to improve the health of the people of the state he loved so much. At the core of Rory's work was our state's motto, 'Let the good of the people be the supreme law;' and we are better for his devotion to this high calling. Our thoughts and prayers are with Linda, Maggie, Martin and all of Rory's family and friends.
Ellinger built a reputation as one of the most liberal legislators in Missouri, sponsoring bills on gun control and marijuana reform. His political opponents literally shot down his attempt to prohibit the sale, manufacture and possession of assault weapons.
Despite his liberal voice in Missouri's pro-gun, Republican-controlled legislature, Ellinger drew deep respect from his colleagues across the aisle. Republican Jay Barnes penned a heartfelt remembrance of Ellinger's legacy just before he died:
Rory and I are of different parties and opposite political philosophies. And we've probably spent more time debating each other on the House floor than any other members of the House. But ours has always been, I hope, a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. Rory devotion to community improvement spans decades, beginning with his work in civil rights in the 1960s. In a building where comity and painstaking attention to detail are all too often lacking, Rory was a shining example of what a legislator should be...He was always prepared, always inquisitive, always seeking to improve legislation (even if he disagreed with the underlying premise), and always respectful of others - whether they were a legislator or witness with whom he agreed or disagreed.Ellinger's passing prompted a minute of silence on the House floor as well as an outpouring of grief and of support for his family online.
My prayers go out to the family of my colleague Rep. Rory Ellinger who passed away this morning. Rep. Ellinger was a true statesman.— Randy D. Dunn (@MORepDunn) April 9, 2014
#RIP my pal Rory Ellinger. As a history buff, I enjoyed talking old political stories w/ Rory, especially about his former boss Tom Eagleton— Peter Kinder (@PeterKinder) April 9, 2014
It's very hard to hear the news about Rory Ellinger. We rarely agreed, but he embodied the passion and... http://t.co/XcaWTBPqre— Rep. Mark Parkinson (@markparkinson) April 9, 2014
May God rest your soul Rep. Ellinger.— Jane Dueker (@JaneDueker) April 9, 2014
Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.
I am so sad about the passing if Rep. Rory Ellinger. He was a true champion of progress and a kind man.— Jennifer Bernstein (@JenKBernstein) April 9, 2014
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