Leona McElroy Kelly

Inducted: 2002
Born: 1919
Died: 2000

Former Rhode Island Representative from South Kingstown.

Leona A. Kelley was born in Providence on August 15, 1919. She attended Classical High School and the University of Rhode Island graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1941.

Her political career began in the 1950s as a social worker. After taking time off to raise her two sons with husband Milton Kelley, she then worked as a fifth grade teacher at Hazard School in South Kingstown for seventeen years.

In 1984 Leona Kelley successfully ran as Republican representative for District 49. She won through hard work: knocking on the door of every house in the district which won her 530 votes. The following January she became the first female representative in South Kingstown. Working with Bill Metz and Lucy Rawlings Tootell, she helped give southern Rhode Island a voice. Her successful career spanned sixteen years and introduced legislation to preserve the environment, farmland, stonewalls and to teach Rhode Island History in all school grades. She also supported strict penalties for drunk drivers. Representative Kelley was best known for creating and securing passage of Rhode Island General Law section 23-18-11.1 (The Leona Kelley Act) which will keep developers’ backhoes from obliterating the graves and remains of our ancestors. She also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Rhode Island, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000

Leona Kelley died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, in South County Hospital on November 7, 2000. She was survived by her husband Milton and their two sons.

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