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Missouri Rep. Rory Ellinger Dies at Age 72

Chris Blank / Associated Press
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Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (L) congratulates Rep. Rory Ellinger after the governor signed House Bill 1320 which respects the rights of nursing mothers and encourages healthy families, as legislators look on in University City, Missouri on April 3, 2014. House Bill 1320, which was approved unanimously in both the House and Senate, prevents nursing mothers from being penalized for breastfeeding in public, and allows a breast-feeding mother to request to be excused from jury duty. Photo: UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (L) congratulates Rep. Rory Ellinger after the governor signed House Bill 1320 which respects the rights of nursing mothers and encourages healthy families, as legislators look on in University City, Missouri on April 3, 2014. House Bill 1320, which was approved unanimously in both the House and Senate, prevents nursing mothers from being penalized for breastfeeding in public, and allows a breast-feeding mother to request to be excused from jury duty. Photo: UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri state Rep. Rory Ellinger, whose legislation addressing nursing women was signed into law last week, died Wednesday following a battle with liver cancer, colleagues said. He was 72.

Ellinger’s death was announced in the state House by Minority Leader Jake Hummel and in the state Senate by Sen. Joe Keaveny, with whom he shared an apartment in Jefferson City.

Ellinger, a Democrat from St. Louis County, had announced he would not seek re-election because of his health and was not at the Capitol recently. Ellinger’s failing health spurred quick action by the Republican-led Missouri Legislature to pass the bill that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law last Thursday in the lawmaker’s home town of University City.

Under the newly approved law, nursing mothers can be excused from jury duty with a written note from a doctor. It also bars local ordinances restricting breast-feeding in places where mothers and children otherwise are allowed and states breast-feeding in public or private does not count as sexual conduct.

Missouri State resenative Ellinger dead

Ellinger was too weak to walk or talk during the bill signing ceremony. His wife, Linda Locke, read a statement in which Ellinger shared a “plea to set aside personal differences and ideological conflicts.”

The House and Senate each observed a moment of silence Wednesday. Nixon ordered flags lowered to half-staff in St. Louis County and the Capitol’s home of Cole County.

“His family is heartbroken, as are we,” said Hummel, D-St. Louis.

Ellinger first was elected to the Missouri House in 2010. Twice previously he sought election to the chamber, losing a 1972 election by 870 votes and a 1984 Democratic primary. Ellinger was press secretary for Tom Eagleton when he was Missouri’s lieutenant governor. According to his biography, Ellinger was a bodyguard for Martin Luther King Jr. and marched in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery.

Associated Press writer Jordan Shapiro contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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