Julia B. Anderson, former special assistant at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and founding director of the Institute for Racial and Ethnic Health Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, died June 25 at her Pikesville home from lymphedema, a blockage that affects the immune system.
She was 66.
"She was an extremely gifted thinker when it came to children and families," said Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a longtime friend.
"I've never known anyone with more grit," Dr. Hrabowki said. "She was indefatigable, and even though she had health problems for years, she never gave up. We used to call her the 'Amazing Dr. Julia B. Anderson.'
"Julia fought the good fight," he said. "She won the race."
Dr. Thelma T. Daley, chair of the National Council of Negro Women and national director of Women in the NAACP, said Dr. Anderson had been a friend of more than 30 years.
"Julia was a meticulous researcher and very precise. She had a thirst for knowledge for many different things," Dr. Daley said. "She was a person who gave freely of her knowledge, wisdom and resources."
The daughter of Eugene Anderson, a truck driver, and Rebecca Anderson, a nursery school educator, Julia Blanche Anderson was born in Baltimore and raised on Lauretta Avenue in West Baltimore.
While attending Edmondson High School, she sang with the school choir as a soprano. She was also a member of the newspaper and yearbook staff, and student council president from 1968 to 1969.
After graduating from Edmondson in 1969, she began her college career at what is now Coppin State University, where she was an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
"She was the first member of her family to attend college," Dr. Hrabowski said. "Here was the little black girl who grew up in Baltimore who saw that education can transform lives — and she came to represent the best in education."
Following her graduation from Coppin in 1974, Dr. Anderson taught English in Baltimore public schools before enrolling at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she obtained a master's degree in education community development and planning in 1976.
She remained at Michigan and earned a master's degree in 1977 in social work, then in the late 1970s was named associate director of development with the institutional advancement staff at Talladega College in Talledega, Ala.
Dr. Anderson returned to Baltimore in the early 1980s, where she embarked on a career in health affairs.
"Upon experiencing her ongoing health challenges, she became an advocate for health equity, especially in the African-American community," wrote a nephew, Allan Van Johnson of Baltimore, in a biographical sketch. "As she developed her professional career, she was equally committed to mentoring youth and young professionals."
After working as a director of the old Nutter Funeral Home, in 1987, she began working as special assistant to the deputy city health commissioner.
A year later, she was promoted to director of the department's office of minority health. She was also a faculty fellow with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, working in medical affairs at the Pentagon in Washington.
In 1989, Dr. Anderson began studies at the University of Maryland Graduate School in Baltimore, a partnership between UMB and UMBC. In 1995 she obtained a doctor of philosophy degree from UMBC's public policy program under George La Noue.
After graduation from Maryland, she joined the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as research director of its Center for Health Program Development and Management.
That same year, she was appointed by Gov. Parris L. Glendening as a member of the state Board of Physical Therapy Examiners and the Governor's Task Force on African-American Entrepreneurship in Baltimore City.
While at CHPDM, Dr. Anderson oversaw a $12 million budget, and her other responsibilities included human resources, inter-agency collaboration and government relations.
In 1998, Dr. Anderson was named the first director of the Institute for Racial and Ethnic Health Studies, part of CHPDM. Its mission was to assess the health care status of African-Americans and other racial and ethnic populations within the state.
"She was always pushing us to do more and work harder and [expand] health policies. She was a committed woman," Dr. Hrabowski said. "She was also a person of deep faith who was dedicated to elevating the spirit of people when times were challenging and dark."
Dr. Anderson was appointed to a special assignment in 2004 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda and, four years later, was named a full-time special assistant to the deputy director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, located at NIH. Her responsibilities focused on activities related to health disparities research and programs.
In 2007-2008, she was a visiting professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing in Bloomington.
Dr. Anderson retired from the NIH in 2011.
"She was intellectually curious and always had the courage to speak the truth," Dr. Hrabowski said. "Anyone who had arguments or discussions with Julia knew that she was an independent thinker."
"She had a wide network of friends and was like a magnet," Dr. Daley said. "Once you got to know her, she'd never let you go, even if you moved to Texas or California."
Dr. Anderson enjoyed singing gospel music.
"She had a quick wit and was a wonderful story teller," her nephew said. "She loved to share her wisdom, music and humor."
"The real message of her life was never give up and always keep the attitude that I can do this, and live to inspire others," Dr. Hrabowski said.
Dr. Anderson was a member of Tabernacle of the Lord Church in West Baltimore, where funeral services were held Saturday.
In addition to her nephew, she is survived by a sister, Carol Johnson of Randallstown; three other nephews; three nieces; and a special friend, William White of Baltimore.