Mary E. Marshall, a Social Security Administration earnings technician and a union official whose hobby was researching the life of a free African-American family from which she was descended, died Saturday of complications from a stroke at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.
The longtime Original Northwood resident was 74.
The daughter of Frank Marshall Jr., a tailor, and Estella Barry Marshall, a city public schools cafeteria manager, Mary Edythe Marshall was born in Baltimore and raised on Ashburton Street in West Baltimore.
She was a 1951 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and attended what was then Baltimore City Community College, Morgan State University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Ms. Marshall began working in the 1960s for the Internal Revenue Service and in 1969 took a job at the Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn.
She was a longtime member of the American Federation of Government Employees, and as vice president of Local 1923, she managed and resolved labor relations issues.
"I've known Mary forever and we were friends first for many years. She was a very loving person," said Cynthia B. Ennis, president of AFGE Local 123. "She was always fighting for the employees, working families, and was a wonderful labor leader. She cared about everyone and was just a wonderful person."
"She was referred to affectionately as 'Miss Mary' by her colleagues," said her sister, Barbara Marshall, a college educator, who lives in Somerville, Mass. "She always personified integrity, honesty and resolve in the execution of her duties. She was highly regarded for her skills as a people person."
Ms. Marshal had not retired at her death.
In addition to her professional and labor union careers, Ms. Marshall maintained a lively interest in the history and culture of African-Americans.
"As a family historian, her research extended to chronicling accounts of the Fortie family, a free African-American family from whom her maternal grandfather descended," said Dr. Marshall. "In addition, she investigated the activism of the Fortie family in African-American Methodism in the 1700s."
One of the family members she was interested in was the Rev. John Fortie who was pastor during the 1830s of the Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church. He also was a leader in the movement of black ministers at the time that asked that black congregations be given full charge of their churches.
"Because the state of Maryland did not provide public education for African-Americans, Reverend Fortie established a private day school for them in the 1800s," said Dr. Marshall. "Frederick Douglass was a student there because he wanted to learn how to read."
Another graduate of the school was Isaac Myers, the son of free black parents, who later established the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society. Joined by 14 other African-American investors, Mr. Myers also founded the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Co. in 1868 in Fells Point, which was one of the nation's first black-owned shipyards.
Today, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park near the site of the old shipyard in the 1400 block of Thames St. commemorates black maritime history.
"She also examined the out-migration pattern of the Cralle and Sutton families from whom her maternal grandmother descended. They were from Northumberland County, Va., and came to Baltimore in the early 19th and 20th centuries," said Dr. Marshall. "She had donated her papers to the Maryland State Archives."
"She had fellowships to Africa several times and was very interested in the culture of Africa and African dress," said Ms. Ennis. "She wore a lot of African clothing and knew its history."
Ms. Marshal was a member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Greater Baltimore section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
She was a volunteer with the Baltimore section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
In the 1990s, she played a major role in organizing and hosting the Kunta Kinte African-American Heritage Festival, her sister said.
Ms. Marshall enjoyed making Afro-centric jewelry, collecting African and African-American art, and traveling to Senegal and Morocco. She was also a gardener and enjoyed a lively game of "Jeopardy," her sister said.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.
Her only survivor is her sister.