Leonor Sullivan, 86; Ex-Congresswoman

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From Staff and Wire Reports

Leonor K. Sullivan, a former congresswoman who brought forth such important consumer legislation as the 1968 Consumer Credit Protection Act with its truth-in-lending provisions, while waging private wars against sagging panty hose and other slovenly products of American industry, died from the complications of heart disease Thursday.

Mrs. Sullivan, the only woman to ever serve in Congress from Missouri, was 86 and died at a hospital in south St. Louis County.

She represented the state’s 3rd Congressional District as a Democrat from 1952 to 1976. When she arrived in Washington, Americans were often at the mercy of usurious lenders and the impoverished were hard-pressed to feed their families. By the time she retired she had been, through her senior membership on the House Committee on Banking and Currency, at the forefront of legislation that simplified and limited contract interest rates. She was the author of the Food Stamp Acts of 1959 and 1964.


Her efforts also were focused on inspection standards for food, drugs and cosmetics, as well as on preserving environmental resources.

Successor to Husband

Mrs. Sullivan came to Congress after her husband, John B. Sullivan, died in 1951 while serving as Democratic congressman from the same Missouri 3rd District, which includes South St. Louis, south St. Louis County and Jefferson County. She won election to succeed him in 1952.

That was her first try for elective office and when she retired in 1976 she had been elected to 12 consecutive terms. Her successor was Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, who still represents the district.

When she retired it was with some bitterness. She told the Los Angeles Times in the post-Watergate era: “I’m disturbed at what’s happening to the whole government . . . the corruption that always goes on . . . the lack of morals . . . too many people thinking, ‘So what?’ ”

Other Posts Listed

Her other congressional posts included the chairmanship of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and membership on the National Commission on Mortgage and Interest Rates, the National Commission on Consumer Finance and the Joint Committee on Defense Production.