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Black History Month – Ruth Jones McClendon

Written by on February 19, 2019

The People’s Legislator

by Doug Heath

When it comes to noteworthy African American female legislators from Texas the names of Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm and Shelia Jackson-Lee quickly come to mind. Residents from the Eastside of San Antonio would add the late Ruth Jones McClendon’s name the to list of distinguished legislators. Ruth Jones McClendon is a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 120 from 1997 to January 31, 2016. During the 2015 legislative session, Representative McClendon required the use of a motorized scooter. She announced her retirement at the end of that session, marking the end to a distinguished career. As a state legislator, the Houston native chaired the House Committee on Rules and Resolutions and served with the House Committee on Transportation, and the House Appropriations Committee. McClendon has authored, sponsored, co-sponsored and passed more than 170 bills, excluding resolutions. One of McClendon’s biggest wins came last year when the Legislature passed her bill creating an innocence commission to help prevent wrongful convictions. Her priority issues had long been education, health care for children, elderly and the disabled, restorative justice programs, and transportation system improvements. Her legacy will forever be the McClendon Legislative Scholars Program, a collaborative initiative between McClendon and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The program is coordinated by the UTSA Institute for Law and Public Affairs within UTSA’s Honors College. The McClendon Scholars spend the legislative session working as legislative assistants in the State Capitol offices of members of the Texas House of Representatives.

McClendon, who also served as a lectern / Extraordinary Minister at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, passed on December 19, 2017. Her faith is the foundation on which her dedication to her constituents was founded. McClendon always did the right things for the right reason. As one who had the opportunity to shadow Ruth for two sessions, I witnessed the respect she earned from members of both parties. She was a coalition builder who put her constituents before party politics. Ruth Jones-McClendon was loved by most and respected by all!

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