Del. Hattie Harrison, who was the longest-serving member of the House of Delegates, died Monday night, House Speaker Michael E. Busch announced. She was 84.
Delegate Harrison, a Democrat who represented East Baltimore's 45th District since 1973, served until recently as chairman of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. She was the first African-American woman to chair a legislative committee in Maryland, holding that position 33 years until being named chairman emeritus this year.
The cause of death was not available Monday night.
Born in Lancaster, S.C., Delegate Harrison attended Baltimore public schools and was a graduate of Antioch College. Busch's office said she was a schoolteacher for much of her life.
The speaker called Delegate Harrison the "godmother" of the House.
"For many of us, she was the glue that held it all together," Busch said.
He said she died at 7 p.m. and that her family asked that her passing be announced at the conclusion of Monday night's session, which ended with a moment of silence in her memory.
"There will be someone who comes down to take her seat, but she will never be replaced," Busch said, adding, "she will be missed and always remembered."
Other fond remembrances of Delegate Harrison came pouring in from her fellow public officials Monday night.
Gov. Martin O'Malley said a in a statement: "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, and I am proud to have called her my friend."
"Today, Maryland has lost a leader and true public servant," Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said in a statement. "Del. Harrison paved the way for the generations of African-American leaders who followed her, and I was honored to have the opportunity to serve alongside her in the House of Delegates. She will be missed in Baltimore, Annapolis, and throughout Maryland."
Said Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young in a statement: "I will personally remember her as a larger-than-life figure who nurtured and educated generations of young children growing up in East Baltimore.
"Del. Harrison was a true champion for the communities of East Baltimore and the city as a whole. She served with honor and distinction as a trailblazing legislator," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "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."
Del. Curt Anderson, chair of the Baltimore City delegation, said everyone called Delegate Harrison "Miss Hattie," a term of both affection and respect.
"She knew where all the secrets were kept," Anderson said.
Delegate Harrison had been in a wheelchair for the past few sessions, Anderson said, and had not been to Annapolis for the 2013 session that started three weeks ago. Anderson said Delegate Harrison had been in hospice for some time.
She is survived by two sons, Robert "Skip" Harrison and Phillip Harrison; three grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun