Remembering Attorney Mary Lee Leahy

LeahyA Springfield attorney who helped lead the fight against patronage hiring in state government has died.   Mary Lee Leahy died early Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Leahy was the lead attorney in what became known as the Rutan case.  A group of state workers argued they were denied advancement based on politics.  The U-S Supreme Court agreed.  That case led to more protections for workers and banned most political hiring in the state.
In an interview a decade ago, Leahy talked about the changes that resulted from the court decision…

LEAHY “Years and years ago I took a deposition of someone who worked in the 1950’s.  He said the day after the election, we just left our jobs because we knew a new administration was coming in.  And we was talking about, I think, a highway maintainer position.  So yes, things have changed very much since then.”

Mary Lee Leahy was 72.  She also spent time working in state government, serving in former Governor Dan Walker’s cabinet.

In 2007, Leahy was named one of 12 Women Who Changed Springfield in a WUIS project.   Hear Kavitha Cardoza’s interview…

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s oral history project has posted an interview with Mary Lee Leahy here.

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2 Responses to Remembering Attorney Mary Lee Leahy

  1. Patricia Kohnke Wisneski says:

    What an honor for my sister to have known this fine lady! May her family find peace in the knowledge that she made an impact on this world and her works will continue in her absence.

  2. Valeri Decastris says:

    One of Illinois’ brightest lights is out tonight. I was privileged to know her personally and awed to witness her work on behalf of workers in this state. She was one of a kind with a big heart, beautiful eyes and a spine of steel. She put the fear of God in state government bureacrats that deserved to shake in her wake. Thank you Mary Lee. You certainly fought the good fight. God help workers now that she’s gone. There’s a war on workers going on all over and the general in the defense team is gone. God Bless Her.

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