Montgomery delegate, Patricia Billings, dies

January 01, 1991

BETHESDA (AP) -- Delegate Patricia Billings, D-Montgomery, a longtime Democratic activist and abortion-rights advocate, has died of lung cancer.

Mrs. Billings died Saturday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. She was 54.

Mrs. Billings' 18th District included Chevy Chase and Kensington. She was named to the House in 1989 to fill the seat vacated by Donald Robertson, who retired, and she was elected to the seat in November.

Her family said Sunday that Mrs. Billings had fought lung cancer for the past 3 1/2 years. The disease came back during the campaign, but she kept it a secret.

"She never wanted her illness to be an issue," said Leon Billings, her husband. The cancer was diagnosed in 1987, and she was given a clean bill of health in 1988, after treatment, he said.

She made it through the 1989 legislative session without incident.

"It was late in 1989 when she had a minor reoccurrence," Mr. Billings said. "It was after she had announced for the November election she found out that the cancer had come back and come back in a big way. It is possible that the presence of cancer motivated her more."

She was taking chemotherapy while campaigning, her husband said, but still was tireless.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, called Mrs. Billings "a great person who always looked to the future." He said he had sent her to seminars on the issue of legislative reapportionment and had counted on her help on that politically tricky problem. "She would have been a great asset to us," he said.

A caucus of local officials will recommend a replacement to the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. That committee will make a recommendation to the governor, who will appoint Mrs. Billings' replacement.

Mr. Robertson said the committee almost certainly will nominate an abortion-rights advocate. "Her position on that issue and the position of the voters on that issue should be and will be respected," he said.

A native of Montana, Mrs. Billings earned an English degree from the University of Montana in 1958. In 1961, she received a master's degree in teaching from San Jose State University in California. She had taught journalism in California and in Rockville.

She is survived by three children; her mother, Mary Harstad of Glendive, Mont.; and two sisters.

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