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Former Missouri legislator Betty Sims dies after brief illness

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Missouri political activists in both parties are mourning the death of former state Sen. Betty Sims, a Republican from Ladue who was a legislative leader.

Sims, who was 80, died Monday morning after a short illness, friends said. She had been in good health until a few weeks ago, when she was stricken while preparing for a family float trip.

Sims currently held posts on several state and regional boards, including the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Sims served in the Missouri Senate from 1995 to 2003, holding the seat now held by Democrat Jill Schupp.  Sims was known as a political moderate, which put her at odds with some conservative groups — notably Missouri Right to Life — which tried to oust her in 1998.

Her chief focus, in the legislature and afterwards, had been on education and health care.  A businesswoman, she also was long active in a number of civic groups, including the area Girl Scouts and in Girls Inc., a group that seeks to encourage girls and young women to succeed.

State Republican Party chairman John Hancock called Sims “a great leader and a dear friend. I don’t think she ever ran a campaign that I didn’t work on.”

He praised her “integrity, hard work and true determination.”

Former state Rep. Emmy McClelland, R-Webster Groves, called Sims “a true visionary when it came to what needed to be done to improve our region and the state.”

“There is nobody like her who had so much energy and a wider range of talents,’’ said McClelland, a close friend.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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