ANNAPOLIS — Hattie Harrison, the longest-serving delegate in the Maryland House and the first African-American woman to chair a legislative committee in the General Assembly, has died. The Baltimore Democrat was 84.
House Speaker Michael Busch announced Harrison’s death late Monday night.
Harrison, who was first elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 1973, represented District 45 in the eastside of Baltimore. For 33 years she chaired the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, which considers proposals on the rules, organization and procedures of the House and the General Assembly.
“Delegate Harrison was a great influence on everyone she touched,” Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said in a statement. “She took enormous pride in public service and while someone will ultimately take her seat, no one will ever be able to take her place in the House.”
An advocate for civil rights and workers’ rights, Harrison was a teacher for much of her life. She was born in Lancaster, S.C., but attended public schools in the city of Baltimore and graduated from Antioch College.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recalled the personality of a trailblazing lawmaker that endeared Harrison to constituents for decades.
“Her calm but stern demeanor and her matriarchal standing in the community foiled even her most ardent political opponents, who, in the end, came to respect her greatness,” Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young remembered Harrison as a larger-than-life figure who nurtured and educated generations of children in Baltimore.
“As a mother figure at Dunbar High School, Del. Harrison stressed the importance of education and a strong work ethic to countless children who passed through the school’s halls,” Young said in a statement Monday night.
Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for the speaker, said one of Harrison’s sons, Robert “Skip” Harrison, informed Busch of his mother’s death Monday evening. Harrison is also survived by her son Philip Harrison, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.