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Towson’s Adelaide Bentley deserves to be remembered fondly | READER COMMENTARY

Adelaide Bentley, former president of the North East Towson Improvement Association, stands on Lennox Avenue. She passed away last week at the age of 91.
Adelaide Bentley, former president of the North East Towson Improvement Association, stands on Lennox Avenue. She passed away last week at the age of 91.(Steve Ruark / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

I’m grateful for Frederick N. Rasmussen’s obituary upon the death of East Towson’s Adelaide C. V. Bentley (“Adelaide C.V. Bentley, the unofficial mayor of East Towson’s African American neighborhood, dies,” April 5). Mr. Rasmussen captures not only what an indefatigable advocate Mrs. Bentley was for her community, but also how deeply she was respected and loved these many years.

I’m recommending this article to all citizens of Baltimore County. It’s a good introduction to the history of African American communities in our region. For further reading, see historian Louis Diggs who is also mentioned in the obituary. Not to be missed in the piece is the 1964 “slum clearance program” proposed by then-County Executive Spiro T. Agnew.

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I grew up in a white neighborhood of East Towson, just blocks from Mrs. Bentley’s home. In 1964, I was a teenager and hadn’t a clue about the racist real estate practices in Baltimore County, or about Mrs. Bentley’s fight to protect what was left of her community from the bulldozers. But one thing I knew even then, as I walked west past the neighborhood where Mrs. Bentley lived: it was not a “slum.” Actually, it was a vibrant community — proud, caring, safe.

My parents told me that much. I now know why they called East Towson a “slum.” They wanted to develop the land upon which those houses, beloved by generations, were standing. But Mrs. Bentley wouldn’t let them. We should all read her story.

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Madeleine Mysko, Towson

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