A national radio host who was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians has died, after a battle with lung cancer. Cape Girardeau native Rush Limbaugh was 70.
Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year by former President Donald Trump. That’s the highest honor a citizen can receive from the president.
Limbaugh was heard on more than 600 radio stations nationwide, including a number of Missourinet affiliates across the state.
Former Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, inducted Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians in May 2012. Perryville is north of Cape Girardeau.
“Being from southeast Missouri, he was somebody that we all considered one of our own and was glad to see how successful he became. And him being a conservative made it even better,” Tilley says.
Some Missouri House Democrats at the time criticized Speaker Tilley’s decision. They were unhappy with some of Limbaugh’s comments. Limbaugh had described a Georgetown law student as a “prostitute”, after she testified before Congress regarding contraceptives.
The controversy drew national media attention, and international attention too. Tilley says one of his friend’s saw the story on a television news broadcast in China.
Tilley says the 2012 ceremony was to honor Rush Limbaugh, and that there were threats. He says he wanted the ceremony to be safe and respectful. Tilley says it was a big day.
“My caucus and myself, we stood firm. We were honored to induct him into the Hall of Famous Missourians, and it’s a day I won’t, that really not just myself, but a lot of people in the House, my family included, will never forget,” says Tilley.
Tilley says there were questions then of whether the bust would be allowed to stay in the Missouri Capitol.
“I remember at one point in time there was questions of whether the governor’s (Democrat Jay Nixon’s) office would allow the bust to sit in the Rotunda, so it was an interesting time,” Tilley says.
Limbaugh traveled to Jefferson City for the 2012 ceremony. Tilley tells Missourinet that Limbaugh was proud to be honored by his home state.
“It amazed me by someone who had been in the Hall of Fame for the National Broadcasters, for the Radio Hall of Fame, had all these accolades that he was humbled and honored by what we (the Missouri House) did,” Tilley says.
Then-House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, was also at the Capitol ceremony, along with Missouri House GOP lawmakers.
Tilley says Limbaugh also visited the Speaker’s third floor Capitol office that day, and also spoke to House Republicans in a Capitol hearing room.
“I think his message was hey, don’t be ashamed for what you believe in. And if you believe in it, speak it loudly,” says Tilley.
Tilley says he has one regret from that day. He says Limbaugh invited him to dinner that evening in Atlanta, and said he’d fly Speaker Tilley back to Jefferson City. Tilley told him no, saying he needed to preside over the House.
He describes Rush Limbaugh as a true patriot and a legend.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, who represents southeast Missouri, has issued a statement about Limbaugh’s death. Smith served in the Missouri House in 2012, and was in Jefferson City for the induction ceremony.
“Throughout the years, he and his family have remained a constant presence throughout southern Missouri. He never forgot where he came from, no matter how big he got, his heart was always in Cape Girardeau. He was a Missourian through and through. Rush was not just a radio talk show host. He was the steady hand of conservatism that could motivate and activate the grassroots better than anyone,” Smith says, in part.
Congressman Smith notes Rush Limbaugh introduced President Trump at the Trump Cape Girardeau rally in November 2018.
State Reps. Chris Sander, R-Lone Jack, and Richard West, R-Wentzville, have introduced a Missouri House courtesy resolution, praising Limbaugh. It says Limbaugh raised a record $1.7 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America, in his annual Cure-a-Thon program.
Limbaugh also served as the grand marshal at the St. Louis Veterans Day parade in 1999. His bust is in the Missouri Capitol Rotunda.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s interview with former Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, which was recorded on February 17, 2021:
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