TULSA — State Rep. Sue Tibbs, whom Gov. Mary Fallin called a tireless public servant, died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Tibbs, one of the last in a group of Republicans to have served in the minority in the state House of Representatives, died Friday night. She was 77.
Funeral services are pending.
Tibbs, a Republican from Tulsa, was chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. She also served on the human services, judiciary and general government committees.
Elected in 2000, she was serving in her final year in the Legislature. Legislators are limited to 12 years.
“Rep. Sue Tibbs was a tireless public servant who cared deeply about her constituents and the state of Oklahoma,” Fallin said Saturday. “She was an influential and important figure at the state Capitol, and she will be remembered for the hard work and dedication she brought to her position as a legislator.”
Tibbs, who in the past couple of years coordinated a weekly devotional session for House members, missed part of this year's session because of her medical condition. When she returned after an absence last month, members of both parties came over to her seat on the front row of the House chamber and prayed for her.
Members were asked last week to sign a group photo that was to be given to her.
House Speaker Kris Steele said Tibbs was a dedicated and determined lawmaker.
“She was an incredibly effective, fair legislator who was widely admired for her strong sense of conviction and faith,” said Steele, R-Shawnee, who had served his entire legislative career with Tibbs. “Her determination was most evident as a passionate champion in the areas of corrections reform and voter identification in which her legacy will be forever evident. She was our colleague, but to many of us, she was the kind of friend anyone would like to have. Sue never complained or allowed her illness to get in the way of her service to the people of Oklahoma.”
Tibbs was elected to six terms from House District 23 in east Tulsa. She defeated the late Betty Boyd, a well-known television personality and Democrat, to win her first term in 2000. Republicans gained control of the House after the 2004 elections.
“You never had to wonder where Sue stood on an issue, and I respected that,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said. “Sue represented the people of District 23 well, and she will be greatly missed.”
Former House Speaker Chris Benge, a Republican from Tulsa who led the House from 2008 through 2010, said Tibbs was “a consummate stateswoman, colleague and friend.”
Tibbs' seat will remain vacant until November, based on legislation passed and signed into law last month. The legislation states that any legislative seat that becomes vacant March 1 or later in an election year won't be filled until the November general election.
Filing for legislative seats takes place Wednesday through Friday at the state Capitol. Legislative terms begin in mid-November; legislators are in session from early February through late May.
Tibbs is the second House member and third state legislator since July to die while in office. Rusty Farley, a Republican House member from Haworth, died July 4. David Myers, a Republican senator from Ponca City, died Nov. 11. Oklahoma has 149 legislators — 101 in the House and 48 in the Senate.
Mike Neal, president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said Tibbs “exemplified the very best of a public servant.”