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Former Lieutenant Gov., Supreme Court Justice, Lawmaker Dies

Associated Press
      Mack Easley, who served in all three branches of New Mexico government, has died at age 89.
    Easley, a former lieutenant governor, legislator and state Supreme Court chief justice, died Wednesday night at an Albuquerque senior living center where he had lived for several years, his son, Roger Easley, said Thursday.
    Easley, a Democrat, served as lieutenant governor from 1963 through 1966 under then-Gov. Jack Campbell.
    Before then, he served five terms in the New Mexico House, in 1951-52 and from 1955 to 1962. He was speaker of the House in 1959-60. After two terms as lieutenant governor, he served one term in the state Senate, from 1967 to 1970.
    "He was always interested in politics,'' Roger Easley said.
    In the House, Easley was vice chairman of the education and chairman of the natural resource and oil and gas committees. In the Senate, he was Senate minority whip in 1969-70, and was vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
    Easley was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1976 and subsequently was elected to the job. Eventually, he became the court's chief justice.
    Roger Easley said his father was proud of having served in all three branches of state government, and a proclamation presented to him upon his retirement made note of that accomplishment.
    His son said he also was "absolutely devoted to education.''
    Easley pushed not only his children to get an education, "but everybody else he came into contact with,'' including encouraging those he worked with to go back to college, Roger Easley said.
    Mack Easley was born Oct. 14, 1916, the youngest of 13 children born to a family who sharecropped in Oklahoma.
    He earned his undergraduate degree from Northeastern (Oklahoma) State College, where he met his future wife, Loyce, an artist. They were married in Carlsbad in 1939. She died in 2002.
    A portrait of Chief Justice Easley hanging in the Supreme Court chambers in Santa Fe was painted by his wife.
    The Easleys lived in Santa Fe for 12 years, then moved to Albuquerque when he joined a law firm there.
    As a young man, he moved to Hobbs, where some of his older brothers had gone to work in the oil fields, Roger Easley said. There, he went to work for the Hobbs News-Sun, but eventually decided that he'd rather go into law than into journalism, his son said.
    Easley earned his law degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1947, then returned to Hobbs.
    He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, serving in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.
    He first joined the judiciary when he was appointed to the state district court in Hobbs by then-Gov. Bruce King, his son said. Then-Gov. Jerry Apodaca named him to the Supreme Court. He was chief justice in 1981 and 1982, according to his handwritten resume at the Supreme Court.
    His son remembered him as a "great father and particularly, a great grandfather. He's been a positive influence on their lives.''
    Easley also is survived by a daughter, June Hudson of Los Angeles, and six grandchildren.
    He is one of only a few people who have served in all three branches of state government.
    According to records of the Legislative Council Service:
    Another former lieutenant governor, Tibo Chavez, was a judge and a state senator. Former Gov. Thomas Mabry served in the first state Senate after statehood, from 1912 to 1916, and was a Supreme Court justice from 1939 to 1946. Former Gov. John F. Simms Jr. was an associate judge in the 1920s and was in the state House in the late 1940s.

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