Marian B. Jones, a former Rouse Co. executive who was the company's first African-American female mall manager, died of cancer Aug. 15 at Warm Heart Family Assisted Living in Germantown, Montgomery County.
The longtime Randallstown resident was 73.
"I knew Marian from the time when she became the general manager of Mondawmin Mall and I was president of the mall's merchants' association," said Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes who owned and operated Everyman's Son at the mall from 1978 to 1983.
"We always had good relations. She was a tough administrator but always fair. You could always have a conversation with her, whether it was about my business or the merchants I represented," Mr. Stokes said. "She was always very professional and never unkind."
"Marian was one of the most exceptional people I have ever met," said Anthony T. Adams Sr., who was an assistant Rouse Co. mall manager from 1978 to 1981 at The Mall in Columbia and later the Paramus Park Mall in New Jersey.
"She ... was a groundbreaker. At that time, no female had achieved the position of a senior manager at the Rouse Co. She was a pioneer because she was both a female and black," said Mr. Adams, a resident of Bowie.
The daughter of William "Bo" Jones, a steelworker, and the Rev. Elaine Jones, pastor of Mount Calvary Holiness Church, Marian Bernice Jones was born at home at 1826 Eagle St. in Southwest Baltimore and raised on Stricker Street.
She was a 1962 graduate of Frederick W. Douglass High School and attended Antioch College for several years.
In 1966, Ms. Jones joined the Rouse Co. as a secretary working in the company's legal division. In 1970, she was promoted to leasing coordinator, where she worked with Rouse Co. attorneys and leasing representatives of malls owned by Rouse.
She was promoted again in 1972 to a legal assistant working with company attorneys on merchant leases.
"After working for the Rouse Co. for 10 years, I decided I wanted to go out into the field and work in management," Ms. Jones told The Baltimore Afro-American in a 1979 interview.
Ms. Jones was named assistant manager in 1976 of the company's Plymouth Meeting Mall in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., a position she held for almost two years before being named vice president and general manager of Mondawmin Mall in 1977.
At the time, she was the first African-American woman in the history of the Rouse Co. to hold such a position. When Ms. Jones took over at Mondawmin, there were two black male mall managers, Mr. Adams said.
She worked 12-hour days, six days a week, overseeing a staff of 22. Her duties included overall responsibility for operation of the entire mall, leasing space, preparation and implementation of the budget, advertising, cleaning and security.
She took over operation of the mall at a time when it was experiencing a decline in sales and customers — and worked to make it thrive again.
"The purpose of me being here was to oversee the renovation and rebirth of the mall," she said in The Afro interview.
"The mall was suffering a decline, and Marian turned it around during the whole time she was there," Mr. Stokes said. "She did the things she had to to tighten up the operation, because things had been drifting.
"She came in and pushed the right buttons," he said. "That was her business approach."
Ms. Jones told The Afro that one of her goals was increasing minority-owned businesses.
"Finding black people that have capital and experience to go into and operate a successful business is difficult," she said. "But we do promote minority business."
"She was a very hardworking person and very direct. She was very principled and someone to be trusted do what whatever she was asked," Mr. Adams said. "She did not shoot from the hip, and she was not fast and loose.
"She was respected at the Rouse Co., which at that time was very political," he said. "Politics could create barriers, but she was able to transcend them and be successful because of her tenacity."
"Marian was not outgoing, but she was strong and she kept her business demeanor close to her vest," Mr. Stokes said. "She was always friendly, honest and direct in all of her conversations."
In 1986, Ms. Jones left the Rouse Co. and became a regional property manager for P-M Limited Partnership. She later joined Fletcher Bright Co. as a regional property manager, and served as general manager of Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center at Pratt and Carey streets in Southwest Baltimore.
Ms. Jones later held positions with Tate Access floors and Off Staffing, a company that supplies health care workers.
Ms. Jones also served on the Mayor's Council of Business and Professional Women.
She had been a member of Little Macedonia Baptist Church. There, she served as director of the children's choir. Since 2003, she had been a member of Omega Baptist Church.
She was a world traveler and enjoyed reading, writing and playing Scrabble.
Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Home, 8728 Liberty Road, Randallstown.
She is survived by two daughters, Avis DuVall of Germantown and Adrienne Kinnebrew of Atlanta; her mother, of Baltimore; a stepson, Leonard Frieson Jr. of Baltimore; two stepdaughters, Karen Frieson Carter of Odenton and Jacqueline Frieson Walker of Columbia; three brothers, Thomas Jones, Ronald Jones and Harold Jones of Baltimore; and three grandchildren. Marriages to Charles Coates, John Wesley and Leonard Frieson Sr. ended in divorce.