In 2001, I went to Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ Shaker Heights office for a get-to-know-the-representative interview. I’d read that she’d just met George W. Bush, and I asked for her first impressions. She said he seemed a man of limited intelligence. Her aide, next to her, looked stricken.
Tubbs Jones was tough without trying. When she endorsed Cleveland mayoral candidate Raymond Pierce, she single-handedly raised him from also-ran to contender, and white politicos and reporters howled she’d acted only out of racial solidarity.
When I asked why she supported him, she sighed. “He’s the best-qualified candidate,” she insisted, landing hard on each word. To her, a man who’d been a Clinton administration civil-rights lawyer was qualified to run Cleveland.
This year, Tubbs Jones took heat for the opposite move, forsaking racial solidarity to endorse Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, infuriating many in her district. But her explanation was the same I heard seven years ago.
I last saw her at a meeting in Euclid this winter, exuberant and cheeky as she reminded people to vote. I saw her charismatic side, her full-of-life energy when she was at ease in a crowd, how she made constituents feel like friends. I got into my car as she got into hers, and I watched her drive away, expecting to see my congresswoman talking with crowds like that one for a long time to come.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones died Aug. 20. To read our 1993 cover story about her and our interview with her in our December 2002 30th-anniversary issue, search our article archive at clevelandmagazine.com.