University City representative Rory Ellinger has died early Wednesday morning. House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) made the announcement to the House Wednesday morning, which then held a moment of silence for Ellinger, who had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer. He was 72.
“His family is heartbroken as are we,” said Hummel. “They wanted me to take this opportunity to thank all the members [of the House] for their outpouring of support over the last few weeks and for what we all did getting his legislation passed as quickly as we did … that it meant a lot to both them and Rory.”
Representative Ellinger lived in University City with his wife, Linda Locke, president of Reputaré Consulting. They have two children, Martin Ellinger-Locke a former Peace Corps Volunteer and graduate student in Urban Planning and Margaret Ellinger-Locke, a third year law student at the College of New York.
Ellinger’s fellow state lawmakers offered their condolences on Twitter after the announcement of his death.
Fellow House Democrat Chris Kelly (Columbia) said, “I knew Rory for more than 40 years. He really made a difference. Rory died in the saddle and that would have pleased him.”
Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) typed, “Sad to learn of the passing of Rep. Ellinger. We didn’t always agree, but he was a genuine & honorable man. Honored to serve with him.”
Representative Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles) said, “It’s very hard to hear the news about Rory Ellinger. We rarely agreed, but he embodied the passion and dedication to service that every member of the General Assembly should have. Brigit and I are praying for his loved ones during their time of loss and mourning. Rest in peace, Rory.”
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) said, “Rest in peace my pal Rory Ellinger. As a history buff, I enjoyed talking old political stories w/ Rory, especially about his former boss Tom Eagleton.”
The legislature and Governor Jay Nixon (D) moved swiftly to pass and sign into law a bill Ellinger sponsored this session to define protections for breastfeeding mothers. That bill was signed into law by Governor Nixon last week in a ceremony at University City that Ellinger was able to attend.
According to his biography on the House website, Ellinger had been in the House since 2010. He was an attorney and president of the law office of Rory Ellinger, P.C. in O’Fallon and St. Louis. He had also served as an assistant general counsel for the Missouri Public Service Commission and had been the executive director of Legal Services for Northeast Missouri. Ellinger had also served as legal counsel for the NAACP of St. Charles County and as the press secretary for Lieutenant Governor Tom Eagleton.
Ellinger had been active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and served briefly as a bodyguard for Martin Luther King.
Representative Ellinger was elected to four terms on the University City School Board and served as treasurer and secretary of the St. Charles County Bar Association. He was a member of the Urban League of St. Louis, the University City Land Clearance for Redevelopment Commission and the Ethical Society of St. Louis. He had been a former member of the United Way of St. Louis Low Income Housing Committee and was a former president of the Musick Neighborhood Association. Rory also served for 7 years on the Crider Health Center.
He had received the Martin Luther King Award from the School District of University City and the Legal Distinction Award from the St. Louis ACLU. He had successfully argued in front of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Missouri Supreme Court and the Eighth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Representative Ellinger was appointed by Governor Nixon to serve on the Commission on State Medical Certificate of Need. He also was appointed to serve on the State Welfare to Work Commission by Governor Bob Holden and the Missouri Foundation for Health by Gov. Mel Carnahan.
Representative Ellinger was a graduate of Bishop Du Bourg High School. He received his B.A in History and his J.D. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He obtained his M.A. in History from the University of Missouri – Columbia.