- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Nelda Barton-Collings, the first woman to lead the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the state’s longtime Republican National Committeewoman, has died, a funeral home director said. She was 85.

Barton-Collings was Kentucky’s Republican National Committeewoman for 28 years. She spoke at the 1980 Republican National Convention and called to order the 1996 convention in San Diego. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointed her to two national advisory boards.

Born in Providence, Barton-Collings graduated from Western Kentucky University. She took over the family’s nursing home business after her husband died and grew it into a network of nursing homes across the state. She was a founder of several community banks that, in 2007, were consolidated into Forcht Bank based in Lexington, according to Mike Duncan, Kentucky’s Republican National Committeeman and the former chairman of the RNC.

“She was a great good will ambassador for the state of Kentucky,” Duncan said. “Politically, professionally she was a great role model for women in Kentucky.”

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers called Barton-Collings “a woman ahead of her time.” And State Senate President Robert Stivers called her “a true stateswoman.”

“Nelda’s passion for public service and her determination to improve the Commonwealth will serve as her legacy. She was always gracious and kind. There simply will never be another like her,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Barton-Collings “a pioneer in business and politics.”

“Nelda was a fantastic force for good and gave the state she loved a lifetime of service,” McConnell said. “Her determination to improve our Commonwealth and nation was outmatched only by her charm and benevolent optimism.”

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