Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Overdue Honor for a St. Louis Race Pioneer

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Overdue Honor for a St. Louis Race Pioneer

Article excerpt

My first term in the Missouri House of Representatives was in 1967. I was 26 and new to the job. Of the 34 representatives and senators from St. Louis city, only two of us were Republicans. Many of the House members were new, as well, the result of redistricting caused by the one-man, one-vote decision of the Supreme Court.

It was in the state Senate that St. Louis had experienced legislators: Mike Kinney, 54 years; Judge John Joynt, 12 years: and Bob Pentland, 20 years. However, one person stood out among the group of six senators from St. Louis: T.D. "Ted" McNeal. The first black senator in Missouri, he had come up the hard way working as a sleeping car attendant and then an international vice president of his union. By the time I met him, he was a dignified and respected senator and strong voice for his constituents and when Ted took the floor in the Senate, everything stopped and all attention was on him.

It was from him and these other men that I learned the craft and pitfalls of legislating. In my second term, Ted came to me and asked for my support for an innocent-sounding bill, "unit control" for the St. Louis School District. The problem was that administrative control of the school district was spread among several departments, and the superintendent supervised less than half the employees in the district. Ted's bill would centralize control of the school district in its chief executive, the superintendent.

The opposition came from the ward committeepeople who controlled the jobs in the independent building department. While the change might seem today to be a "best management practice," it was fiercely opposed. Ted's district encompassed several wards where the committeepeople had much at stake. Ted told me that efficient administration of our schools was more important than patronage. When the bill came to the House, a small group of us supported the change, and with out-state support the bill passed. At the end of the session, Ted chose not to run for re-election. The rumor was that he had lost the support of his committeepeople which he confirmed to me later.

In 1972, Christopher "Kit" Bond was elected as both the youngest governor in Missouri's history and the first Republican since 1940. …

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