Mary Jane Goodpasture Bode, state legislator and journalist, was born on July 28, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. She was the daughter of Basil M. Goodpasture and Margarite E. (Stinnett) Goodpasture. She came to Texas to study at the University of Houston. At some point during the 1940s, she married Galveston native Amadeo (or Armandes) E. Carmignani, and they had a daughter (Vera) in Galveston in 1949. The couple divorced, and Mary Jane began a career as a journalist in 1956 and eventually lived in the Austin area. She worked for several newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman, and was a Capitol correspondent for Long News Service for ten years. She married Winston Bode, an Austin journalist and broadcaster. Winston Bode called her a “hard-nosed reporter” and said she had a “great mind that went in many directions”. They divorced by the late 1960s.
Mary Jane Bode’s political career included a 1968 run, as a Democrat for the Texas House; she used the slogan, “We need a woman in the House.” She stated: “I call myself a liberal, but my liberal friends call me a moderate. So I guess I’m a liberal moderate.” Even though she was unsuccessful in her first run for public office, she spent several years as a press secretary to Texas attorney general John Hill. In 1977, in a special election, she campaigned to replace State Representative Sarah Weddington, who left to serve in President Jimmy Carter’s administration. Bode won the seat for District 37-B (Travis County) by less than seventy votes and served in the Sixty-fifth Texas legislature. She won reelection and also represented Travis County in the Sixty-sixth legislature.
During her tenure, Bode focused on education, taxation, health care and human needs, utility rates, transportation, and the environment. For education, she supported legislation to give teachers and administrators the tools to maintain more effective discipline in the classroom. She lobbied for the Austin Community College budget and worked with the University of Texas at Austin Board of Regents to preserve low-cost married student housing. She also won Coordinating Board approval for a G.P.A. rule change, and she successfully fought off moves to end faculty tenure. One of her greatest concerns was passage of S.B. 350, the school finance package, which provided for important changes in the financing of public education and established the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) testing program. She was adamant about her stances and conveyed this message in a commentary in the December 7, 1977, edition of the Daily Texan: “If I tell you that I will work for a student regent, or county ordinance making authority to aid in protecting the environment, or a grade point average bill, or a way for the state to help alleviate the student parking problem, or a strong faculty development leave program, then I will do just that. I will not sell issues solely for your vote.”
Bode helped establish a separate probate court for juveniles. She also worked closely with and supported the efforts of neighborhood organizations, co-sponsored the bill to help save the life investments of Bee Creek property owners, co-sponsored the bill which allowed state assistance for the purchase and maintenance of local parks, and supported successful efforts to prohibit discrimination based on sex, age, race, or faith in insurance.
Bode authored and won passage for her bill to extend parking privileges for disabled veterans. She authored legislation to eliminate the stigmatizing language from the Texas driver’s license code and to make the code compatible with medical advances pertaining to the treatment of epilepsy. During the Sixty-fifth legislature, she served on the Transportation Committee, Constitutional Amendments Committee, and the House Joint Committee on Child Abuse. In the Sixty-sixth legislature, she was on the Transportation Committee, the Transportation Subcommittee on Appropriative Matters, and she chaired the Select Committee on State Employee Productivity. In 1980, when her district changed and Ronald Reagan led a Republican party surge, Bode lost to Republican Terral Smith.
After her political defeat, Bode returned to journalism and wrote for newspapers in Corpus Christi, Del Rio, and San Antonio. She retired in San Antonio in 1989. She had trouble with illnesses throughout her life, including lockjaw, polio, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, back surgery, and finally cancer. During a visit to her grandson, Bode died at the age of seventy-one on September 23, 1998, at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, a Chicago suburb. She was survived by two daughters and a son. She was remembered for her journalistic ethic and spirit. Because of her contributions through service to the state, Bode was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.