Longest serving member of House dies

Del. Hattie N. Harrison, who became the first African American woman to chair a General Assembly standing committee in 1979, died Monday night.

Mrs. Harrison, 84, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1973 to represent District 45 — part of Baltimore’s East Side.

By 1979, she was made chair of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, a post she held through 2012. Mrs. Harrison was hospitalized and had not reported to Annapolis for the start of the legislative session this year.

“Del. Harrison was a great influence on everyone she touched,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch said. “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.”

In a statement released by Busch’s office, Mrs. Harrison was called “a tireless advocate for civil rights and workers’ rights.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Mrs. Harrison, a former teacher at Dunbar High School, was “a dedicated public servant.”

“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 said. “Baltimore has a lost a good legislator — the Baltimore city delegation’s ‘fairy godmother’ — and I have lost a someone I was proud to consider my friend.”

Mrs. Harrison, born in Lancaster, S.C., on Feb. 11, 1928, attended Baltimore city public schools and graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

She is survived by two sons, Robert “Skip” Harrison, and Philip Harrison and daughter-in-law, Lula; three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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