Rep. Slater of Remembered as Voice for The Poor
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Rep. Slater of Remembered as Voice for The Poor
Posted by CN Staff on August 10, 2009 at 18:20:57 PT
By Cynthia Needham
Source: Providence Journal
Providence, R.I. -- Rep. Thomas C. Slater, a veteran state lawmaker and tireless advocate for poor Rhode Islanders died at home Monday after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.In his 15 years on Smith Hill, the representative from the West End of Providence made a name for himself as a voice for constituents who had none, winning the respect and the hearts of even his toughest political critics.
Slater helped families find safe homes, and children access affordable health care –– the kind of basics that make a hard life a bit easier.He asked for little in return, ducking the spotlight and shunning the attention that came with his work on high-profile legislation such as the legalization of medical marijuana.“What makes Tom Slater so special is that he is so very ordinary,” his colleague and close friend Rep. Steven M. Costantino once said. “His life is familiar to so many people who have their daily struggles and continue on.”Slater grew up just blocks from the neighborhood he would later represent. He joined the Marines and later worked as a salesman for a hydraulics company. But it was his family: his wife, Jody, his three children and eventually his grandchildren that made him fiercely proud.Slater was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and from his seat on the House Finance Committee sponsored hundreds of bills to help working people. He railed against budget cuts that would limit welfare and pushed for better conditions for teens at the training school.Perhaps his greatest legacy comes in his work on medical marijuana. In 2006, he helped make Rhode Island the 11th state to legalize the drug for those with chronic pain. This spring, he was instrumental in the legislature’s decision to expand that law, authorizing the creation of clinics where patients can legally buy it.“He never forgot where he came from,” House Speaker William J. Murphy said Monday. “He’s a representative in a district that needs an active voice at the State House and Tom became that voice. No issue was too large or too small for him.”It was an example that even resonated with Rhode Islanders who never met him. After The Journal ran a profile of Slater in June, dozens of readers wrote to express admiration for his work. A few said they hoped one day to meet and thank him.Having first been diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1990s, Slater faced a relapse in 2003 that caused the illness to spread through his body, but rarely stopped him from trekking to the State House.This spring, Slater received a national NeighborWorks Award for his local housing work. It was clear he was too ill to travel to the Washington, D.C., ceremony, so organizers brought it to him.The packed State House tribute was a testament to wide arch of Slater’s influence. Legislators crammed beside community activists, while formerly homeless sat alongside state leaders.“It felt really humbling that day to see how much people loved my father,” his son, Scott Slater recalled. “Sometimes you go through the daily chores of life and don’t realize how someone close to you has touched so many people.”Barely strong enough to stand, the veteran legislator seemed embarrassed by the attention. When it was over, he ambled toward the House chamber, eager not to miss the afternoon session.“For him, doing things to help others kept his mind off his vulnerability,” Costantino said. “Even in the days right at the end he was still joking. He never gave up.”Calling hours for Slater will be held Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Frank P. Trainor & Sons Funeral Home in Warwick. His funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Matthew Church, Cranston.Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)Author:    Cynthia Needham Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009Copyright: 2009 The Providence Journal CompanyContact: letters projo.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 11, 2009 at 05:15:40 PT
I don't think there is a norm. You spoke your mind and that is what is correct. He seemed like a good man. May he rest in peace.
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Comment #1 posted by christ on August 11, 2009 at 05:07:23 PT
Slater: a highly respected man
I don't know anything about Rhode Island politics. I do remember reading Slater's name a few years back when he led the way for his represented American citizens to regain their freedoms that were erased 72 year ago... to medicate effectively--today, given their doctor's recommendation (unfortunately it has come to that). Because of his willingness to "buck the trend" in the face of peer pressure, I always assumed he was a freshmen-state Congressman, who wanted to make a positive and meaningful change. His passing sadly reminds me that people who know that their end is near, often turn from their peers' standard career ladder to focus on their inner most beliefs of what is truly important in life. I wish more politicians would realize this life-is-short attitude much earlier. I never know what to say in these types of circumstances. Dear c-news brothers and sisters, what is the norm?
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