Mary Gillespie Baker, 80, longtime activist with NAACP

February 02, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Mary Gillespie Baker, a longtime member of the NAACP who was active in the civil rights organization's youth programs, died of cancer Jan. 26 at the Joseph Ritchie Hospice. She was 80 and lived in the Village of Cross Keys.

"She was a very warm and genuine person," said Virginia Richardson, a close friend. "She knew she was ill for a long time but just kept on going. I admired her for that."

For nearly her entire life, Ms. Baker was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In recent years, she had been a judge for its ACT-SO program, which highlights the talents of youths in art and science.

Born in Tennessee, she earned bachelor's degrees from Knoxville College in Tennessee and Hampton Institute in Virginia, and a master's degree from Drexel University in Pennsylvania.

In 1971, she moved to Baltimore and married Percy Baker Sr., a Morgan State University biology professor who died in 1993. It was her second marriage, her first husband having died in 1966.

For seven years after moving to Baltimore, she commuted daily to Wilmington, Del., where she was the library supervisor for the public school system.

Ms. Baker enjoyed music and played the piano and organ.

"Close friends knew of Mary's interest in music. While she considered it a hobby of sorts, she was an organist of considerable merit and spent a great deal of time perfecting that skill," Ms. Richardson said.

Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St.

She is survived by a son, Arthur Jefferson of Suitland; a brother, Arthur Gillespie of Texas; and four stepsons, John K. Jefferson of Temple Hills, Harry J. Jefferson of Virginia, Percy Baker Jr. of California and James E. Baker of New York.

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