Baltimore city Del. Hattie N. Harrison (D-Dist. 45), who was affectionately known as the “godmother” of the House of Delegates, died Monday at age 84.
“To many of us, she was the glue held the place together,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis told the chamber Monday evening, shortly after Del. Curt Anderson (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore delivered the news of Harrison’s death. “She will be sorely missed but wonderfully remembered,” he said.
Harrison suffered a number of strokes in recent weeks, Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore said.
A native of South Carolina, Harrison spent most of her career as a high-school teacher and was first elected to the House in 1973. She became the first African-American woman to lead a Maryland legislative committee in 1979, when she chaired the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, a position she had for 33 years.
At the beginning of this year’s session, Harrison was named chair emeritus of the committee, and the gavel was passed to Del. Anne Healey (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville.
“(Del. Harrison) was without question a very caring person with her constituents and with everyone else,” said Del. Melvin L. Stukes (D-Dist. 44) of Baltimore, who sat next to Harrison in the House chamber, saying she was “a walking encyclopedia” who could always provide advice.
“It’s a great loss for the state of Maryland (and) the city of Baltimore and a tremendous gain for heaven because I know that’s where she’s at,” Stukes said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said in a statement he was proud to call Harrison a friend. “Del. Hattie Harrison will be remembered for being a tireless advocate for the citizens of Baltimore city. She dedicated her life to the noble calling of public service,” he said in the statement.
The Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee now will nominate someone for the governor to appoint to fill the vacant seat.
Yvette Lewis, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, also praised Harrison’s many years of service. “(Her) legacy will live on in the lives of the many people she inspired,” Lewis said in a statement.
Harrison is survived by two sons, a daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Staff Writer Holly Nunn contributed to this report.