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Frank M. Conaway Sr.

Civic leaders recall Frank M. Conaway Sr.

Civic leaders across Maryland Monday eulogized Frank M. Conaway Sr., the longtime clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, who died Saturday night, as a feisty public servant never afraid to challenge convention.Gov. Larry Hogan said the state lost a “tremendous public servant.”

“Nobody had the presence and personality of Frank Conaway, a businessman and fixture in city politics,” he said. “Frank loved people, and the people loved him, too.”

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said he had lunch with Conaway last week and “he was as feisty and full of life as ever.”

“He was a pillar of the African-American community and an advocate for all people,” Rutherford said. “I will miss him very much.”

Conaway, 81, had won five elections as a Democrat but announced in December he was switching party affiliations and becoming a Republican. He also had served on the city’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council since 1999.

Under the state constitution, the Baltimore City Circuit Court judges can appoint a clerk to fill the Conaway’s position until the next statewide elections in 2018.

Conaway unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Baltimore in 2011. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who defeated Conaway four years ago, tweeted her condolences Sunday night.

“Baltimore is stronger thanks to his decades of selfless service,” she wrote.

Prior to becoming clerk, Conaway served in the House of Delegates as a Baltimore Democrat from 1971 to 1975 and 1979 to 1983. He also worked as an insurance executive and broker.

“Frank was always at the table with his sleeves rolled up when there was work to be done to fight against injustice and discrimination,” said Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the city’s NAACP chapter. “He never held his tongue when issues and individuals needed to be called out and held accountable, and we are all the better for it today.”

Hill-Aston described Conaway as a friend and personal mentor and recalled breaking down racial barriers in the insurance industry.

“The city of Baltimore and the entire State of Maryland have lost a great leader but we will feel his impact for many years to come,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings called Conaway a friend and mentor for more than 35 years.

“Baltimore has lost a true leader and unbridled voice of the people in Frank Conaway,” he said. “As a tireless advocate for the Baltimore community, he dedicated his life to public service and loved every moment of it. His desire to help those around him and lift others up was present in all of his work. He worked hard each and every day to bring life to life, and he succeeded.”

After becoming clerk, Conaway often campaigned for re-election as the self-described “Papa Bear” of a family of city politicians. Mr. Conaway’s wife, Mary, served as register of wills from 1982 to 2012; a daughter, Belinda, was elected register of wills last year after representing the 7th District on the Baltimore City Council from 2004 to 2011; and a son, Frank Jr., has served in the General Assembly since 2007.

Frank Conaway Sr. was born March 16, 1933, in Baltimore. He attended Frederick Douglass High School and graduated from what was then known as Morgan State College in 1960. He also served in the U.S. Army.

Conaway lived in Ashburton and is survived by his wife and three children.