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Clare Dunn, Sister

It is not often that a Roman Catholic nun serves in an elective office and in so doing stands out as an exceptional public servant and an effective politician. But Pima County was fortunate to have such a person in Sister Clare Dunn, whom midtown Tucson voters elected to four terms in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1974 to 1980.

Rep. Dunn, a Democrat, perished in an automobile accident on Interstate 10 north of Tucson on July 30, 1981, not long after completing her seventh legislative session. She was only 46. She is the only nun ever to serve in the Arizona Legislature and was the Democrats' assistant minority leader for the 1981 session.

"She was a very special person who had opponents, but no enemies," former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez, D-Phoenix, said in 1981 upon learning of her death.

Dunn was respected widely for her consistent commitment to acting and advocating for low-income and working people - and for her ability to get bills through the legislative process without resorting to back-room deals or political grandstanding.

Then-House Minority Leader Art Hamilton, D-Phoenix, said he considered her a co-minority leader rather than an assistant minority leader. "She only got better the longer she was here," Hamilton said. "You had to worry about her ferocity, but never her ego. That put her in a singular class in this body."

Even such conservatives as former Rep. Jim Skelly, R-Scottsdale, admired and respected Dunn. "She really lived her religion, her faith, in her day-to-day life and in her legislative life," Skelly said. "She tried to use the system to help those she felt were getting a raw deal - the poor, the minorities, the downtrodden. She worked her tail off for them."

Dunn was a native of Riverside, Calif., and graduated from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 1952. She joined the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in 1955. She earned a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles in 1963 and was sent to Tucson to teach at St. Joseph's Academy in 1965. When that school foleded in 1969, Dunn was transferred to teach at Salpointe High School. She also completed work for a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's in 1969.

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Supervisor Adelita Grijalva, Vice Chair

Pima County, Arizona
District 5

33 N. Stone Ave., 11th Floor
Tucson, AZ 85701

Phone: (520) 724-8126
Fax: (520) 884-1152

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