2013-01-31 / News

Former R.I. secretary of state, Jamestown resident, dies at 88

Barbara Leonard, a former Jamestown resident who served one term as Rhode Island’s secretary of state from 1993 to 1995, passed away Jan. 24 at the age of 88.

Born in Newport in 1924, Leonard, a Republican, ran for U.S. Senate in 1984 but lost to incumbent Claiborne Pell. A decade later, she was elected Rhode Island’s third consecutive woman secretary of state, serving under Gov. Bruce Sundlun.

She also served on a number of state boards, including the Economic Development Corporation, the Port Authority, and the Advisory Committee on Refugee Resettlement.

President Ronald Reagan named her the New England regional director of the General Services Administration in the 1980s.

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Secretary of State Barbara Leonard, who served the state she loved so well and in so many ways throughout her long life,” said Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who ordered Rhode Island flags be flown at half-staff last week until Leonard was laid to rest. “Barbara was one of a number of accomplished women who served in statewide office during the 1980s and 1990s. Since that time, I am pleased to note that we have made significant progress in terms of female leadership in elected and appointed positions in our state, but remarkable women such as Barbara led the way. Rhode Island is a better place because of Barbara’s life and service, and it is my hope that her family can find some comfort in their many fine memories of her.”

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis also remember Leonard. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family,” he said. “As a businesswoman and one of the first women elected to statewide offi ce, former Secretary of State Leonard was a trailblazer. You do not have to look any further than the boardrooms of Rhode Island’s corporations and the halls of the State House to see the impact of her lasting legacy.”

Leonard was named the 1984 Rhode Islander of the Year. She was buried Tuesday at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. She is survived by many family and friends, including a son and daughter who live in Jamestown.

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