Juliet A. Bragg, a retired Baltimore public school educator who was an outspoken advocate for her neighborhood, died of heart failure Aug. 17 at The Haven nursing home. She was 96.
Mrs. Bragg was a force to be reckoned with during her 60 years of living in a rowhouse near Cumberland Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in the Druid Heights and Penn-North area.
"I got to know Juliet when I represented the 4th District and called her the Mayor of Cumberland Street. She was a small woman, yet she was so bold," Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon said.
"She was so committed to keeping the neighborhood clean, urging young people to get an education, and getting residents to appreciate their community. She believed in discipline and integrity," Mrs. Dixon said.
Through the years, Mrs. Bragg attended hundreds of meetings while keeping her home open to those who needed advice, had a problem or just wanted to chat.
Mrs. Bragg, who kept an eye on the 500 block of Cumberland St. from the doorway of her home, was fearless.
"If she saw young ladies hanging on the corner, she'd go out and say, 'Your mothers wouldn't approve of such behavior, so go home,'" said her daughter, Sara Bragg Gray of Baltimore. "She had a lot of fire and always spoke her mind without malice."
Young men wearing drooping pants aroused her ire and caused a quick retort: "Young man, pull your pants up." If she observed someone littering, she'd say, "Pick up that paper."
The Druid Health Clinic is directly across the street from her home and its director once thought that Mrs. Bragg was nothing more than a neighborhood busybody.
"He thought that until the day she saw someone trying to break into his clinic and called the police. They later became the best of friends," Mrs. Gray said.
Once, a woman sitting on her porch asked for a glass of water, and when Mrs. Bragg went into the kitchen to get it, the woman pulled a knife and put it to her neck.
"She asked her not to hurt her. The woman said she wanted money and her rings. After she gave her the rings and money, [the woman] left," Mrs. Gray said. "Then she called us and calmly told us what happened. She had no fear and refused to move even though we wanted her to."
Born Juliet Amanda Jackson, she was raised in Atlanta. She earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1931 from what is now Clark Atlanta University. While in college, she helped establish the Sigma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
After working briefly as a social worker in Atlanta and teaching English in Talladega, Ala., Mrs. Bragg moved to Baltimore in 1934 with her husband of a year, Marcellus Guy Bragg.
Mr. Bragg, who died in 1966, was a Linotype operator for the Afro-American newspaper.
After raising her two children, Mrs. Bragg returned to teaching in 1947 and established special education departments at Pimlico Junior High School and Southwestern High School. She retired in 1979.
Mrs. Bragg was the longtime president of the Cumberland Street/Sanford Place Community Association and was instrumental in the development and revitalization of the Penn-North neighborhood.
"She was a lady of the South and always dressed in hats and gloves and was a stickler in her dress," said her son, Dr. M. Guy Bragg, a dentist who lives in Woodstock.
"The main thing was that she was always trying and encouraging people to do better. She believed that people could better themselves through education. This was one of her central values," Dr. Bragg said.
"When we wanted her to move, she said, 'No, this is my home and someone has to be here.' She was sweet yet stern, and held nothing back. She always had quick answers," he said.
"She said that someone had to be here in the neighborhood teaching the children. She wanted them to have the same things and opportunities we had," Mrs. Gray said.
Dr. John E. Maupin Jr., a former Baltimore deputy commissioner of health who is now president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, met Mrs. Bragg through his friendship with her son.
"He took me to her home one day to meet her, and she adopted me," Dr. Maupin said.
"She really got to the heart and conscience of people and was able to do both with great grace. She touched so many people, and if we had more mothers like her, our communities would be a better place," he said.
Dr. Maupin recalled that when he was promoted to deputy commissioner in Baltimore, Mrs. Bragg offered him some unsolicited advice.
"She told me, 'Always keep your feet on the ground and remember from whence you came,'" Dr. Maupin said.
In 2005, Mrs. Bragg moved from her beloved Cumberland Street to the nursing home.
"She was active and sharp right until the end of her life," her daughter said. "Believe me, she could still hold her own."
Mrs. Bragg was a member for 72 years of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where services were held Wednesday.
Also surviving are four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.