Mary McClure Bibby, a trailblazer for the GOP and South Dakotans, has passed away.

I had heard she’d taken ill at a GOP meeting last month, but I didn’t know how ill she was. I saw on Facebook today that Mary McClure Bibby passed away.

Back when I was an Intern in the Legislature, State Senator McClure was the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate. In fact, I believe she was the first woman in South Dakota to rise to that level.  While serving in the State Senate from 1975 through, 1989 when she resigned April 10, 1989, to become Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs for President Bush, she served in the following roles:

  • LRC Executive Board member 1977-1989
  • President Pro Tempore 1979-1989
  • LRC Executive Board Vice Chairman 1983-1984
  • LRC Executive Board Chairman 1985-1986

But, her Legislative resume is only a drop in the bucket.   She was Staff assistant for United States Senator Francis Case, Washington, 1959-1961. Secretary to lieutenant governor State of South Dakota, Pierre, 1963, with budget office, 1964. Executive secretary to president Frontier Airlines, Denver, 1963-1964.  Teacher Public High Schools, Pierre and Redfield, South Dakota, 1965-1966, 68-70. Vice chairman of the council of state governments, 1987, chairman council of state governments, 1988. Special assistant to President Bush for intergovernmental affairs, 1989-1992, and Executive Director South Dakota Bush-Quayle Campaign, 1992.

I had the pleasure of working with Mary when she was with the Bush Quayle campaign in 1992, and served with her on the Brookings Historic Preservation Commission here in Brookings a few years back.

As I’m writing this, I see the Governor sent out the following Press release:

Gov. Daugaard Orders State Capitol Flags At
Half-Staff For Former State Sen. Mary McClure Bibby

Image_20570PIERRE, S.D. – Former state legislator Mary McClure Bibby of Brookings passed away on July 2, 2016.

McClure, 77, was a native of Milbank and an alumna of the University of South Dakota, where she received the Fulbright Scholarship. She became a teacher and settled in Redfield. McClure served in the State Senate from 1975 – 1989, representing Redfield and the surrounding area.

McClure was the first woman in South Dakota history to hold a top leadership position in the State Legislature, serving from 1979 – 1989 as president pro tempore of the Senate. She also served as national chair of the Council of State Governments, and as chair of the Legislative Research Council Executive Board.

McClure resigned from the State Senate in 1989 to accept an appointment from President George H. W. Bush as special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs.

Following her legislative service, McClure married former state Sen. John Bibby, who had been a colleague in the State Legislature.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has ordered flags to fly half-staff at the State Capitol on Saturday, Aug. 6, the day of McClure Bibby’s funeral.


It tells a bit about her, but as do many obituary notices, you can’t help but think about how much it has to leave out.  I know that Mary served as a mentor for at least a couple of names you might recognize who interned under her – United States Senator Mike Rounds, and State Treasurer Rich Sattgast.

I know she continued to be active and participating in Republican politics literally up until her passing. She was always warm, kind, and the kind of person it’s easy to admire.  I can’t help but be sad for the loss of Mary, while being richer for knowing her.  She was truly a special lady.

God bless, and God speed.

6 Replies to “Mary McClure Bibby, a trailblazer for the GOP and South Dakotans, has passed away.”

  1. Troy Jones

    I’ve known Mary my entire life as my parents and the McClure’s were at USD together. When I lived in Gettysburg as a child and the McClure’s were in Redfield, several times a year we visited them or they visited us. So, when I was an intern (1979 & 1980 sessions), I was in awe that Mary as Senator McClure was such a big deal. Before that I saw her as a friend of my mom’s who always had lots of Kool-aid and served us hot dogs. But, in the Legislature, she was given extra-ordinary respect for her wisdom. She didn’t speak from the floor much but when she did the chamber was hushed. And, in committee, she often had the most penetrating question which got to the heart of the matter. Yet, despite all the respect she received, I never once saw her demeanor different from the kind mother and friend of my mother with a big smile and sincere concern for everyone she knew.

    May the soul of Mary McClure Bibby, by the Mercy of God, rest in Peace.

  2. Lee Schoenbeck

    Mary was our state senator. I can remember her going door-to-door in Webster and stopping at our house to talk to my parents. Mary was one of those people that everybody loved. She was very sincere and a dedicated legislator.

  3. Margot Gillette

    The world is a lesser place as a result of her passing. As a child it was campaigning – the red opal, the t-shirts and the parades; as a teenager it was her advice and counsel, as an adult it was her friendship and sense of fun. Something fun and interesting always happened when Mary was around!

    I could not have asked for a better mentor and friend.

  4. Karen Harmelink

    Mary and I were friends from our days as Alpha Phi’s. What a rather strange friendship…she, the intellectual student, I the party girl! We had remained very dear friends since and along with usually 6 – 8 others, we met every year for 30 years at her various cabins/homes at Green Lake in Spicer, MN. What glorious times we all had together for those few days following each 4th of July. We kept a photo album/scrap book of those happy times and I hope one of us can complete it with the sad ending of a tremendous relationship with an amazing woman. There are so many stories to tell! How we will all miss her and the glorious times at Green Lake.