BOZEMAN — Dorothy Eck, who helped draft Montana’s Constitution 45 years ago and later served in the state Senate for two decades, has died in Bozeman. She was 93.
Daughter Diana Eck told the Montana Democratic Party that her mother died Saturday.
“Dorothy Eck fought the good fight until the very end. She proudly embraced being labeled a liberal,” said Nancy Keenan, executive director of the state Democratic Party. “We mourn Dorothy’s passing but celebrate the incalculable contribution she made to our Montana.”
Eck was elected to help draft a new state Constitution in 1972, fighting for the public’s right to participate in government and for a requirement that public schools teach students about Montana’s Native American heritage.
She helped elect Democratic Gov. Tom Judge and worked as a member of his staff for about four years before serving in the state Senate for 20 years. There Eck advocated for children, health services, the poor and the environment and helped mentor other lawmakers, including then-state Sen. Jon Tester.
“Dorothy was a trailblazer with courage, tenacity and compassion. She was a champion for women, Native Americans, and a transparent and accountable government,” Tester, now a U.S. senator for Montana, said in a statement Monday. “She left her mark on the pages of Montana’s Constitution, in the halls of our state’s Capitol, and throughout our rural communities.”
Tester lauded Eck’s knowledge of state history and politics in a 2007 interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, saying, “I would have been lost when I first arrived in Helena in ’98 if I hadn’t shared an office, in the basement of the Capitol, with her.”
Eck told the newspaper a decade ago that politics is a matter of trying to persuade people.
“I’ve always been good that that,” she said.
Diana Eck said one of her mother’s greatest gifts was her sense that “it is possible to make a difference in the world, to change things.”
Dorothy Eck was born Dorothy Fritz in Bremerton, Washington, in 1924.
She and her husband, Hugo Eck, moved to Bozeman in 1946 where he was a professor of architecture at Montana State University. They had two children, Lawrence and Diana.
While the children were young, Eck took night classes, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in sociology, psychology and religion. She became involved in state politics as a lobbyist for the League of Women Voters in 1967 and helped successfully lobby for a minimum wage bill.
Diana Eck called her mother “a radical, progressive, spiritual person — radical in the very best sense. She has a finely tuned sense of what is a just society, just and fair for everybody.”
Dorothy Eck’s son and husband preceded her in death. Funeral services have not been announced.
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