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Former Missouri legislator Betty Sims dies after brief illness

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 is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.