Troy Brailey, champion for civil rights, dies at 78

October 07, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen and Dewitt Bliss | Fred Rasmussen and Dewitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writers

The obituary yesterday for former state legislator F. Troy Brailey omitted his son, Norman, from Mr. Brailey's survivors.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

F. Troy Brailey, civil rights champion, founder of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and former executive of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, died yesterday of cancer at his West Baltimore home. He was 78.

Mr. Brailey, who represented West Baltimore in the Maryland General Assembly for 24 years, was a staunch supporter of organized labor, but best known for his efforts in the civil rights movement. He often would regale friends with stories of the movement's leaders, as well as tales of old politicians and deals from the glory days of west-side politics.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

While he had not been active in politics for four years, after losing a re-election bid for his seat in the Maryland Senate, he was remembered yesterday on all levels of government -- on Capitol Hill, at the State House and at City Hall.

"Troy Brailey was a magnificent individual in this business who never lost the ability to poke fun at himself and offer a smile to others," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore. "His work in the 40th District is virtually legendary."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, another elected official with roots in West Baltimore, said: "I remember [him] as a tireless worker who loved his community and the city of Baltimore. He was one of the civil rights workers who respected everyone and used the law to force change. He was my good friend, I'll miss him."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. echoed the governor's praise and said he considered Mr. Brailey "living history."

"I was honored to serve with him in the House of Delegates and in the Senate of Maryland," said Mr. Miller, a Democrat from Prince George's County. "I enjoyed immensely his conversations and discussions . . . particularly the role he personally played in the civil rights movements in the 1960s. He helped organize the march in Washington, D.C., and before that was instrumental in promoting and achieving minority gains in the Pullman workers union."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said "Senator Brailey was a true pioneer, making achievements in the fields of labor relations and politics. He worked with some of the giants of the civil rights movement, especially A. Philip Randolph, and he was an inspiration to a generation of political activists."

Mr. Brailey, a native of Lynchburg, S.C., rose from humble beginnings.

He would tell the story that he and the late Solomon Liss, a former Baltimore City Councilman, judge and state official, got their start on the same South Baltimore street corner, across the street from the Cross Street Market. They met there as very young men, when Mr. Liss was selling newspapers and Mr. Brailey was shining shoes.

He later pressed clothing and was a waiter at Rossiter's Restaurant in South Baltimore and the old Baltimore Press Club before becoming a railroad porter.

Mr. Brailey's work for civil rights included service as state chairman for the 1963 March on Washington, organizer for the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington and state chairman for the 1958 and 1959 youth marches to Washington. He had also been a leader in the planned 1941 march on Washington, a demonstration that was called off after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an Executive Order 8802 establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission. He had also been an adviser to local civil rights demonstrators who participated in sit-ins at restaurants that refused them service.

In the early 1960s, he had stopped work as a Pullman porter, a job he had held since 1941, and had ended his service as president of the Baltimore division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He had worked to organize porters in the early days of the union.

For about 20 years, he was active in the Negro American Labor Council, also started by Mr. Randolph, serving as president of the local unit and as a national vice president.

"I'm really saddened to hear this," said Edward A. Mohler, president of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO. "He had a long political career and was always interested in working people. He was proud of his union affiliation and for being able to boost folks. He was a first-class guy."

In 1966, Mr. Brailey was elected to the House of Delegates, where he served until 1982, when he defeated the late Verda F. Welcome, the state's first black woman senator, for the 40th District Senate seat.

He lost his seat in 1990 to Ralph M. Hughes, a two-term delegate who was credited for authoring the state law aimed at preventing the sale of cheaply made guns. Ironically, Mr. Brailey had long been a supporter of a ban on so-called "Saturday night specials" and had offered legislation as early as 1986 to outlaw them.

Just last month, his son, Norman Brailey, lost a bid to win back the seat from Mr. Hughes.

Mr. Brailey also informally aided individual workers and small groups. He advised black firefighters in Baltimore during the early days of integration. He also headed the labor committee of the Baltimore unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He was a member of the Enterprise Lodge of the Prince Hall Masons and of the Leadenhall Baptist Church, 1021 Leadenhall St., where he will lie in state from 9 am. to 11 a.m. Monday. The family hour will begin at 11 a.m. and the service will be held at noon.

He is also survived by his wife, the former Chessie Granger; a daughter, Alice Brailey-Torriente of Baltimore; two sisters, Ophelia Brailey Singletary of Washington and Fannie Brailey Bailey of Seat Pleasant; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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