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Boyd Rutherford weighs in on decision to bar civil rights icon from Lewis museum

The Republican seeking to be Maryland's next lieutenant governor on Friday scorned the decision to bar a Baltimore civil rights figure from an event at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture.

Boyd Rutherford called the museum's decision "shameful," saying he is a longtime friend of the 80-year-old Helena Hicks, who was denied entrance to the museum last week after she questioned the director's decision to include a convicted murderer in an event about the struggle for racial equality.

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"I am sickened to learn about the way my friend Helena was treated," said Rutherford, the running mate of Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee for governor.

"Dr. Hicks helped desegregate a private facility 60 years ago, and yet here she is today, excluded from a public facility. To deny access to Helena, a civil rights icon, because of a difference of opinion is the very antithesis of what the civil rights movement was all about. It's shameful."

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A. Skipp Sanders, the director of the museum, on Thursday defended his decision to bar Hicks from the event. Sanders said he could not be sure that Hicks would be "respectful and courteous to other panel members and in the presence of our audience." He said he also was worried that "she might not be tolerant."

Hicks was an honoree and a planned member of a panel at the opening of the museum's new photography exhibit, "Struggle: Portraits of Civil Rights and Black Power." She participated in some of Baltimore's earliest anti-segregation sit-ins during the 1950s while a student at Morgan State University.

Guards stopped Hicks at the door of the museum Oct. 1 when she attempted to enter along with her son.

Hicks had disagreed with Sanders about his decision to include Eddie Conway on the panel. Conway is a former Black Panther leader who served about 45 years in prison for the murder of a Baltimore policeman in 1970.

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Rutherford said as secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services from 2003 to 2006, his team managed the contract, budget and construction of the museum, "a project of which I am extremely proud." He said the museum was intended to be a place to showcase the struggles and accomplishments of Maryland's black leaders.

"To say I am disappointed in the actions of the museum's leader is an understatement," he said in the statement.

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