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Former House Speaker Debra Anderson dies at age 73

Pierre capitol statehouse legislative session legislature
South Dakota Capitol in Pierre. (File)

The first and only woman to serve as Speaker of the South Dakota House has died.

Debra Anderson passed away earlier this month at her home in Washington D.C., according to her obituary. She was 73.

Anderson was first elected to the South Dakota legislature in 1976. She became Speaker of the House in 1987.

Gov. Kristi Noem ordered flags be flown at half-staff at the state capitol on Dec. 10 in her honor.

“I got to know Deb and her husband, John, well over the years. She broke a glass ceiling for women in our state,” Noem said in a statement. “She had a true servant’s heart, and she also served in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. She will be missed, and our prayers are with her family.”

Funeral services will take place on Dec. 10 at the Farina United Methodist Church in Farina, Ill.

Josh Chilson is the news director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A Florence, S.D. native, Josh graduated with a journalism degree from South Dakota State University. He has worked as as a newspaper reporter and videographer, and most recently as managing editor for Dakota News Now. Josh is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.