Cover photo for Sen. James L. Mathewson's Obituary
Sen. James L. Mathewson Profile Photo

Sen. James L. Mathewson

UPDATE: The family of Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem James Mathewson has decided to delay his previously scheduled October 22 visitation and funeral.  This decision is out of an abundance of caution due to concerns about COVID19 and the expected attendance of many friends and family with health vulnerabilities.  The events will be rescheduled to a later date and new arrangements will be announced by Heckart Funeral Home, Sedalia.


Former State Senator James Lee “Jim” Mathewson, the longest-serving President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate, died Monday evening, September 27, 2021, at his home surrounded by his family after a battle with cancer. He was 83.

Jim was born March 17, 1938, in Fristoe, Missouri, to James Leonard Mathewson and Eula Cantwell Mathewson, who preceded him in death. He was raised in Benton County and graduated in 1955 from Warsaw Public Schools. Jim briefly worked and attended college in California before joining the U.S. Army.

After his military service, he returned to live in his home state and married Doris Angel Hicks on December 20, 1965, in Miami, Oklahoma. Doris preceded him in death on June 14, 2017.

Jim and Doris operated LeRoy’s Steakhouse in Sedalia from 1965 until the business burned in 1974. Soon after, there was a career turning point, as friends recruited him to run in 1974 as a Democrat for the Missouri House of Representatives. Jim won that first campaign and he was re-elected twice to the House.

In 1980, Jim was elected to the Missouri Senate, and he was re-elected to another five terms, serving in the upper chamber from 1981 until 2005. In 1984, Jim was elected by his Democratic colleagues as Senate Majority Floor Leader, responsible for managing the flow of Senate legislation and floor debate.

In 1989, senators from both parties unanimously elected Jim as President Pro Tem, the top leadership role in the legislative chamber. He served an unprecedented four two-year terms as President Pro Tem.

Jim’s tenure in the Senate’s top post coincided with the administration of the late Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan, with whom Jim worked closely as a partner to improve education funding, economic development, health care and state services to Missourians.

“Jim always described himself as a Benton County boy, but those of us who had the privilege of working and serving with him thought of him as a Missouri statesman,” said former Governor Roger Wilson, a close friend and former Senate colleague. “Jim’s leadership helped generations of Missourians.”

Senate Democratic Leader John J. Rizzo of Kansas City said Jim’s impact on the state is significant: “Everyone recalls figures from their childhood that loom large in their memory – for me, one of those people is Jim Mathewson. Senator Mathewson was President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate when my father served in the House. It is my honor to lead the caucus Senator Mathewson helped build in the chamber he loved and led. On behalf of the Missouri Senate Democratic Caucus, we celebrate the life of Jim Mathewson – a veteran, Senator, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and proud Missourian. My thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of Senator Mathewson, who has joined his beloved Doris in eternal peace.”

Jim was the leading legislative supporter of the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, delivering funding and capital improvements to the state’s top agricultural showcase. Governor Carnahan recognized Jim’s contributions by surprising him with an executive order naming the fair’s new indoor arena the James L. Mathewson Exhibition Center. Jim also worked for many years to improve funding and facilities for State Fair Community College in Sedalia.

Jim served in the Senate until 2005, when term limits meant his retirement from representing Senate District 21. In a Sept. 14, 2004, U.S. House Resolution, the late Congressman Ike Skelton said: “Through the years, Senator Mathewson has been successful in many impressive legislative initiatives. He is admired for his knowledge and courage. When the history of the Missouri Senate is written of this era, the name of Senator James Mathewson will have a prominent role. I am proud to call him my friend.”

Jim continued in volunteer service to his state and community, and in 2016, Governor Jay Nixon, Jim’s former Senate colleague, appointed him to the Missouri State Fair Commission. Governor Nixon also appointed Jim in 2009 to a three-year term on the Missouri Gaming Commission, where he served as chairman.

Jim was active in business, establishing National Valuation Services, with offices in Sedalia, Springfield and Independence. He was an owner of Sedalia radio stations KDRO AM and KPOW FM from 1992 until 2011, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of Thompson Hills Investment Corporation and related entities.

Jim is survived by his close friend and companion, Rhonda Morris of Sedalia, one sister, Evelyn Williams of Warsaw, one sister-in-law, Betty Carter of Sedalia,

four sons, Steve Hicks (Michele) of Sedalia, David Mathewson (Cindy) of Springfield, Jamie Angel (Dr. Diane) of Grain Valley, and Chris Mathewson (Margo) of Lee’s Summit; a daughter, Carol Hicks Rugen of Sedalia; eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  He was predeceased by three sisters, three brothers, one daughter-in-law and one great-grandson.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Mathewson Endowed Scholarship in care of the State Fair Community College Foundation.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sen. James L. Mathewson, please visit our flower store.


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