After Ms. Angelou gained fame, Dr. Watkins said, she tended to avoid politics unless it was on a national level. Her work was recognized around the globe.

But her work also made an indelible mark in Maryland. Leslie King-Hammond, board chairwoman of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History, crossed paths with Ms. Angelou on the lecture circuit and watched her in a kind of awe.

"She came out of the struggles of her own life, which were powerful and palpable and human, and taught a generation of us how to use our voices and intellects and find our own inner beauty," Ms. King-Hammond said. "Her passing is a moment of real reflection."

Larry Gibson, the University of Maryland law professor who chaired Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign in Maryland, said he met Ms. Angelou several times at the White House during the early 1990s.

Like many who met Ms. Angelou, who had a six-foot frame and a booming laugh, Mr. Gibson was left with lasting impressions.

"She was very polite and pleasant, and always took part in the conversation right in front of her, but her mind always seemed to be functioning on a second track," Mr. Gibson said. "Lucky for us mere mortals, she had a gift for translating complicated ideas into delightfully simple language."

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who met Ms. Angelou on several occasions, issued a statement that quoted from her poem "When Great Trees Fall:"

And when great souls die,

after a period of peace blooms,

slowly and always


"The passing of Dr. Angelou is the death of a truly great soul," the governor wrote.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also issued a statement.

"When I think of Dr. Maya Angelou, one word summarizes her total existence — phenomenal," she wrote.

Friends say Ms. Angelou modeled her beliefs with special vividness in what might otherwise have seemed ordinary circumstances.

Dr. Watkins witnessed many such situations as he visited her place and she returned the favor.

In 2006, he said, she appeared at the Lyric Opera to sing onstage with the R&B group Ashford and Simpson, but she was unable to make a post-concert reception for health reasons. Still, he said, she stayed until she had spoken to every fan who wanted to talk.

Then Baltimoreans mobbed her like a rock star as she climbed into a limo.

Dr. Watkins, who founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Program at Hopkins, said she was one of only two speakers he has invited twice. She packed the place both times, he said, most recently in 2007.

Her inner circle included black, white, gay, transgender and Native American people, Dr. Watkins said, and if you used derogatory stereotypes of any kind, "she'd have her staff escort you out the door."

Dr. Watkins said his friend and patient had been in ill health for years, so her death didn't shock him; it's just that he'd spoken to her the day before — about the recent unveiling of her portrait at the Smithsonian in Washington and about his pending visit.

He and Mr. Asante were still digesting the news of her death Wednesday — and trying to take it as she would have liked.

Once, Mr. Asante recalled, she told him that charisma is "when you walk into the room with everything beautiful ever said to you, with anyone that ever laid a positive hand on you."

He said he hoped to "take her with me" from here on out. But he also wanted to keep in mind an exhortation that he said was fundamental to Ms. Angelou.

"She'd want everyone she loved to be working," he said. "'Get back to work!' That's her thing, because there's a lot to do in the community and everywhere."