State Rep. Sue Tibbs of Tulsa passes away

Republican state Rep. Sue Tibbs of Tulsa has died after a lengthy illness. CapitolBeatOK was informed of her death by a close friend who visited the highly respected member of the Oklahoma Legislature yesterday (Thursday). Tibbs died shortly after 9 p.m. Friday evening. 

Chairwoman of Public Safety and a key player on the Appropriations & Budget Human Services subcommittee, as well as General Government and Judiciary, Tibbs was a trailblazer for other Republican women, and women in general.

In her first race, back in 2000, Tibbs defeated a popular Democratic incumbent, Betty Boyd. Eventually, the Republican made the district her own, winning reelection easily in both 2008 and 2010.

In an interview three weeks ago with CapitolBeatOK, Tibbs was asked to list her most significant achievements in public life. She replied, “My most significant achievement, I believe, is being able to serve my constituents on a daily basis.”

Another success was her long marriage to Milton Homer Tibbs. They have two children: Debra West and Elli Dodd.

In her last interview with CapitolBeatOK, Tibbs said she was intensely focused on “the prison reform area. Being able to recognize that some people have made mistakes and wish to have a second chance, giving them that opportunity and truly seeing these programs work, changing lives for whole generations.”

Unsurprisingly, Tibbs was a leading advocate of criminal justice reform, including the package of “reinvestment” proposals aiming to provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent crimes, drug treatment and diversion for addicts, and guaranteed post-incarceration supervision. 

Tibbs was part of the last group of Republicans to have served in the minority at the state House.

One friend is a leading Democrat, Senator Jerry Ellis of Valliant. Last month, Ellis told CapitolBeatOK, “She was so easy to work with in the House, and we did so for six years. I was in the majority there for two years, and then in the minority for four years, before I came to the Senate. She is one of those people for whom party affiliation did not enter into it. It was always just the issue with Sue Tibbs.”

State Rep. Pam Peterson, also from Tulsa, said at that time, “When she speaks on the floor, everybody listens. She is greatly respected. She’s not flashy. She speaks very intentionally. She has power and influence because of who she is. The tenacity of the woman is just incredible.”

She was a friend and mentor to House Speaker Kris Steele, who told CapitolBeatOK she was “a true public servant” who understood state issues and cared deeply about the needs of her constituents.