Brailey saluted as quiet leader

October 11, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

As mourners gathered at the Leadenhall Baptist Church to pay their last respects to former state Sen. F. Troy Brailey yesterday, Joseph Woodyear quietly watched the proceedings from a small park across the street.

He understood the reason for the large turnout but said the fuss wasn't fitting with Mr. Brailey's style.

"He wasn't the kind of person who seemed to like being in the spotlight and the headlines like that," Mr. Woodyear said. "Knowing him, he would have probably . . . like[d] things involving him kept modest and low key."

Indeed, Mr. Brailey's funeral was one of the few times in either the public or private life of the West Baltimore politician that his many accomplishments were acknowledged and praised. Mr. Brailey died Thursday of cancer at age 78.

Inside the South Baltimore church -- to which Mr. Brailey belonged for more than half a century and which was placed on the National Register of Historical Places at his urging -- more than 400 people bid him goodbye.

As faint rays of lights filtered through stained-glass windows, his life was celebrated by state and local elected officials, members of the religious community and scores of constituents he served for more than 20 years.

"He was a beautiful person and was always for the underdog," said Gertrude Hunter, a fellow church member and friend of Mr. Brailey for more than 50 years.

"He very seldom missed a sermon here on Sunday. He'd get up there [in the pulpit] and keep us abreast of things happening in Annapolis. We'll miss him."

Mr. Brailey represented West Baltimore in the General Assembly for 24 years, having last served as a state senator four years ago before losing a bid for re-election.

As a state delegate and senator, he was active in the area of workmen's compensation, state employees' rights, minimum wage laws and lower bus fares for senior citizens.

His work caught the attention of many: Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Maryland Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, all of whom attended the funeral.

Mr. Brailey was most noted for his role in civil rights prior to gaining an elected office.

In 1941, he was a leader of a proposed march on Washington, which led to an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. He also helped organize the historic March on Washington in 1963.

State Sen. Larry Young, who served with Mr. Brailey in Annapolis for 16 years, said he was able to attend the 1963 march in Washington because of Mr. Brailey's efforts.

"I was just a young boy in Harlem Park and wanted to go. My mother wasn't home, so he had someone call my mother and get permission," Mr. Young said. "I was very grateful for that experience."

Charles Petus, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, said the senator was a "staunch" union supporter.

"He was a true civil rights leader. He made sure everyone's rights were protected and that there was a level playing field," Mr. Petus said. "He was a hero. A black hero."

Friends and colleagues said Mr. Brailey was always approachable -- both as a politician in the halls of government in Annapolis and among his constituents on the city streets. Many said he repeatedly asked them not to call him "Senator" but just "Troy."

Rev. Emmett C. Burns Jr., who recently won the Democratic primary for a seat in the House of Delegates from the 10th district, said he sought political advice from Mr. Brailey before the September election. "He said, 'Well, you have to win first,' " Mr. Burns said. "Well, Senator Brailey. I've won the Democratic primary."

Outside the church, Mr. Brailey's accomplishments were equally appreciated. About two hours before the funeral services, several residents of the Sharp Leadenhall community near the church cleaned the streets.

One woman said Mr. Brailey "would have liked it."

"He came around when it was hard for blacks to get involved in politics," said Sandra Kendricks, 56, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. "He didn't represent this area, but he fought for blacks and we thank him. Now anybody can get into politics."

A man named "Al," who was standing at the corner of Leadenhall and Sharp streets, said drug dealers were not out during the funeral.

"This is Brailey's day. Everybody understands that," Al said. "This is respect for him for everything that he did. He fought hard so everyone could have rights. The least we could do is clear the streets."

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