The 1987 and 1988 sessions of the Legislature marked a historic time for South Dakota. We had our only woman to serve as speaker in the House of Representatives: Debra Anderson, R-Sioux Falls. And we had Mary McClure, R-Redfield, as Senate president pro tem. It was the only time that women served simultaneously as the two presiding members of the two legislative chambers.
1988 also marked South Dakota’s first venture into a special presidential primary. One of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination was Vice President George H.W. Bush. Then-former Gov. Bill Janklow was a front-line supporter of the Bush candidacy in South Dakota. Bush lost in South Dakota but won the national nomination and then won election as president that November.
Mary McClure and Deb Anderson likewise won re-election to their legislative seats that November. As Bush took office, his administration asked his top supporters across the nation whom they might hire from the various states. Janklow weighed in, and the Bush administration invited McClure and Anderson to work for his White House.
Debbie, who had served 13 sessions in the state House, was just shy of 40 when she resigned her legislative seat on March 6, 1989, to accept President Bush’s appointment as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.
Mary, a 15-year veteran of the state Senate, was just turning 50 when she resigned her legislative seat on April 10, 1989, to accept President Bush’s appointment as a special assistant for intergovernmental affairs.
Deb’s father, Dean Anderson, R-Bryant, also stepped aside that spring of 1989 from his seat in the state House. He received a presidential appointment to serve as director of the U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service for South Dakota. He had been in the House since 1981. After Janklow won election as governor again in 1994, Dean Anderson was Janklow’s choice for his Cabinet’s secretary of agriculture and served from 1995 through 1997.
The election of Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 ended the White House stay of President Bush. Janklow would return to the presidential campaign scene on behalf of Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. The son of the former president won election as president and served two terms through 2008. In 2009, Dean Anderson passed away. In 2012, Janklow died from a brain tumor.
All of this comes to mind with recent death, on July 2, of Mary Burges McClure Bibby in rural Minnesota at age 77. Her first husband, D.J. “Mike” McClure, died in 1990.They had one daughter, Kelly Joanne. In 1993, after returning to South Dakota, Mary married another former legislator, John Bibby of Brookings. He died at age 82 in 2003. The service for Mary McClure Bibby is set for Aug. 6 in Willmar, Minnesota.
Mary’s parents were Charles and Mary Lucille Burges, long-time publishers of one of Milbank’s newspapers, the Herald Advance. Her older sister, Joanne, spent much of her life at Milbank, succeeding her father at the newspaper in 1958 after his death and continuing at the paper until its sale in 1985. Joanne Anderson died in 2006. The sisters came by their Republican involvements through family heritage. Their father was Grant County Republican chairman for a period and his father had been a Republican county chairman in Minnesota.
Deb Anderson meanwhile married and made a home in Washington, D.C., keeping her many contacts in Republican circles there. And to complete the long circle, South Dakota’s current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Kristi Noem, is a former state legislator who is from Hamlin County, too.
Sometimes small places play big roles by South Dakota standards. What Deb and Mary shared were intelligence, charm, political sense, ability to read people and natural appeal. They paid no attention to the stained glass ceilings in our state’s Capitol.