Remembering two heroes


Anne Arundel County has lost two people who deserve to be remembered for making this a fairer and more harmonious place.

Walter S. Mills was a Parole Elementary School principal who in 1939 -- the Dark Ages of the civil rights movement -- sued the school board for equal pay with his white colleagues and won. Marion Satterthwaite was an Annapolis woman whose greatest civic accomplishment, among many, was giving her heart and soul to helping displaced African-Americans in Annapolis' old Fourth Ward.

His contribution grew out of a quiet courage and unshakable knowledge that he was right. Hers, out of generosity and caring for the community.

Mr. Mills was faced with temptations to abandon his lawsuit; the school board offered him a 10 percent pay raise to fade away quietly. He refused the sure thing and took his chances in court. He knew there was more at stake than fairness for one black educator. Represented by Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice who was then a lawyer with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he found justice for himself and all black principals and teachers when the courts ordered the school board to stop paying people less because of their race. This was a landmark accomplishment, yet those who knew him say Mr. Mills never talked about it. He just kept doing his job -- for 40 more years. He retired from Parole Elementary in 1978.

Mrs. Satterthwaite's public service is not easily condensed in a few paragraphs, either. She was state president of the League of Women Voters and worked to change voter registration requirements. She prodded the change from commissioner to charter governnment. She helped rewrite library laws, created scholarships and was a PTA president. Yet we remember her best for the way she reached out to the Clay Street community in Annapolis. As vice president of the city Urban Renewal Authority and through her work with the Helping Hand homeless shelter, she assisted people who came out on the short end of urban renewal. A white woman, she transcended racial barriers and encouraged others to do likewise.

Mrs. Satterthwaite died July 15 at age 86; Mr. Mills passed away a week ago at 85. This community is a better place because they lived here.

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