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Missouri Rep. Rory Ellinger was MU student, civil rights activist

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | 6:01 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — University City representative Rory Ellinger, who died Wednesday morning, had strong ties to Columbia as an MU student in the late 1960s and later as an activist.

"He was a role model for me in many ways," said Dan Viets, a Columbia attorney and friend of Ellinger's. "When I came here in 1969, he was already a legend for student activists."

Ellinger left Missouri for a short time in 1965 to travel to Boston to organize one of the first major anti-war demonstrations. In 1969, he coordinated a civil rights march through Columbia. For a short time, he was tailed by the Columbia Police Department, which was monitoring his radical behavior, according to previous Missourian reporting.

"I'm big on equality," he told a Kansas City Star reporter in 1977. "That's why I was in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, and why I was incensed at the second-class citizenship of students at MU. I feel the same about women's rights today." 

Ellinger was described as a campus radical while he was a master's student studying history at MU in the late '60s and early '70s.

During his time as a master's student, he wrote the constitution for the College of Arts and Science, served on the Policy and Curriculum Committee and led the Students for a Democratic Society.

"It is time that all Americans be allowed to partake in the American dream that all men are created equal," he told a Missourian reporter in 1972.

He also wrote for the Free Press Underground, a radical student newspaper at MU, and worked toward increasing student involvement on campus.

"He was totally dedicated to making things better," Viets said.

Ellinger was elected chairman of the Columbia New Democratic Coalition in 1971 and president of the board of directors of the University YMCA in April 1974.

In 1972, Ellinger ran for Missouri legislature out of Columbia, but he lost the general election. He then ran for Third Ward city councilman in 1975, but he lost that election, as well.

After his losses at the polls, he enrolled in law school at University of Missouri-Kansas City as a way to further his political career.

Ellinger later served on the University City School Boardand the Crider Health Center. He was first elected University City representative in 2010, and he lived in that area for 20 years.

"Rory was really a great man," Viets said. "He was just a wonderful human being. He remained active throughout his life; he was extremely smart; his compassion and his love for people is really what set him apart."

Superving editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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