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Former State Rep. McClendon Laid To Rest

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Joey Palacios
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Texas Public Radio
Over 200 people attended the funeral service for Ruth Jones McClendon at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church

Former state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon was laid to rest Thursday. McClendon, 74, represented San Antonio’s predominantly African-American east side for 20 years. She died on Dec. 19after succumbing to a fight with cancer.

Hymns and soulful music echoed in the chapel of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, McClendon's parish for 50 years. More than 200 friends, family, and colleagues from the state legislature gathered to pay respects.

Longtime friend and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte delivered one of the many tributes and referred to McClendon as her sister.

“She worked so that everybody could have a place at the table – that everybody was worthy,” she said. “And she knew that even if she didn’t like someone’s politics that she recognized their dignity and would help and mentor people.”

 

During the service, McClendon was commended as a champion for those falsely convicted of crimes. During her final legislative session in 2015, McClendon authored HB 48, which created the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission. It examines what went wrong in criminal prosecutions of people who were eventually exonerated.

 

“So when somebody in Houston, Dallas, Bexar County, is wrongfully convicted, you ask questions why so you don’t do it again. That’s Ruth McClendon’s legacy,” said former state Sen. Rodney Ellis, who sponsored the bill in the Texas Senate.

 

McClendon served on the San Antonio City Council in the mid 90s and also worked as a juvenile probation officer for Bexar County. She won a special election in 1996 to serve in Texas House District 120.

 

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

House Speaker Joe Straus said McClendon’s focus on social justice made an impact on the state because she was able to pass bills no other elected representative would have been able to.

McClendon was a state representative for eight years before Straus took office. He said McClendon guided him in his freshman term.

“(McClendon) welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “She was a mentor to me in my first couple of sessions, and we very, very quickly became extremely close friends.”

McClendon was a native of Houston before moving to San Antonio. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was present at Thursday’s services and issued a proclamation marking Dec. 19, 2017, as “Ruth Jones McClendon Day.”

McClendon is survived by her husband Denver McClendon, a member of the Alamo Colleges board of trustees. She is being laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.