Former congresswoman Holt looks back fondly mostly

Neighbors/Sverna Park

July 23, 1992|By Joni Guhne

In the 1970s and '80's, Marjorie Holt's decisions were recorded on the pages of the Congressional Quarterly. Today, her name is more likely to appear on the pages of "Who's Who in Grandmas," placed there in nomination by eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

I first met former Representative Holt in 1970, when I was a new Severna Park resident. At that time, she had her own law firm in Severna Park (so she could be near the elementary school if her children needed her, she says -- although they never did) and had just been elected clerk of the court.

She was speaking before a group of newcomers and looked very much like the rest of us, but her sights were set far beyond those of us in typical female careers of the time: homemakers, teachers and nurses.

Looking back, Mrs. Holt recalls that it was a female teacher in the seventh grade who inspired her to become a congresswoman. From junior high on, Congress became her life's ambition. She earned a law degree in 1949 from the University of Florida. After graduation, she and her husband, Dun

can Holt, an electrical engineer, left their native Florida and moved to Severna Park.

An active Republican, she entered the political arena by running for clerk of the court.

In 1972, Mrs. Holt defeated 15 opponents to be elected in the newly created Maryland 4th District to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Unique in Congress as a female Republican from Maryland, Mrs. Holt says: "It's interesting to be a woman in that world. As long as you were quiet and moving slowly, nobody got upset. But as soon as you became pushy or strident, the men realized that you were threatening them. So you had to move carefully."

Whether or not she ruffled any masculine feathers, Holt was an effective and popular member of Congress, re-elected every two years for a total of 14 years.

As a member of the Special Armed Services Subcommittee, she held discussions with former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Her committee received praise for its conciliatory efforts from then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

She also was recognized for her efforts to improve the military and her work on the House Budget Committee.

"It was an exciting, challenging, satisfying experience. There are so many resources available to you, that if you take advantage of them, you really can be an expert. I would realize that my opinion was just as valid as anyone else's."

Housing had always been one of Mrs. Holt's main concerns. In 1974, she sponsored an amendment that created the Urban Homesteading Program.

Because of industry layoffs, nearly 80,000 houses sat empty, taken over by the government. Her amendment, aimed at putting these houses back on the tax rolls and allowing owners to earn equity, provided that if a house were purchased at a certain low price and refurbished within five years, the owner would receive the title.

The program, considered a major success by HUD, restored thousands of housing units to private ownership and continues today.

As a Republican, she was a ranking minority member of the Procurement of Military Nuclear Systems Committee and served the Armed Services Committee. She was a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Naval Academy for 14 years.

During her congressional tenure, she served under four presidents -- Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan -- and was leaving when her good friend, George Bush, was coming into office.

Her advice is still sought. Mrs. Holt serves on the Presidential Commission on Arms Control and an independent Pentagon Commission, mandated by Congress following the gulf war, to study the structure of the Army Reserve.

Considering life after Congress, Mrs. Holt says, "The frustration that I don't miss is the pressure of time, never having enough time to do what I wanted to do and always [being] under pressure.

"What I miss most are the relationships with people. I had many good friends that I was able to see and visit with and campaign with in Washington."

The Holts have been married for 46 years. Mr. Holt retired from Westinghouse and she from her law practice, and they spend all their spare time on their sailboat.

They have three children, Rachel, Edward and Victoria.

*

Severna Park honored its illustrious citizen by making Mrs. Holt grand marshal of this year's Fourth of July parade.

Leading the parade was a color guard of county police reserve officers, who also helped control the traffic.

Float award winners were: First place, O'Connor, Piper & Flynn; second, Benfield Florist; third, Severna Park Jaycees; and honorable mention, Coldwell Banker.

Mobile unit winners were: First place, Ragtime Stragglers; second, Chesapeake Bagel Bakery; third, Pedal Pushers Bike Shop; honorable mentions, Severn and Magothy Rivers Ski Club and Severn River Lions Club.

Walking unit winners were: First place, Severna Park High School Marching Band; second, Jazzercise; third place, Razzle Dazzles; honorable mention, Body Business.

Community entries winners: First place, Olde Severna Park; second, Round Bay; third, Severna Forest; and honorable mention, Shipley's Choice and Ben Oaks Swim Club.

Winners in the festival entertainment were: First place, Danielle Nicole Knaack, National Petite Young Miss America; second, Kaleidoscope Gymnastics Aerials; third, Body Business; honorable mention, Maryland Gymnastics and Chesapeake Dance Theatre.

*

The Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Chesapeake (formerly Arundel Hospice) is offering a support group for those who have suffered the death of a loved one.

The group will meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays from Aug. 11 to Sept. 15 at the Millersville office.

Reservations for the group, which is free of charge, should be made by Aug. 4.

The hospice also offers "Stepping Stones," a professionally led support group for people who have lost a chronically ill child.

For details, call 987-2129 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

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