Jean Stovall Anderson, 71, state's attorney's receptionist

April 24, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Jean Stovall Anderson, who during her 30-year career as a receptionist in the Baltimore City state's attorney's office became a trusted friend of judges, lawyers and crime victims, died Thursday of cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 71.

Mrs. Anderson was the first black female to work in the Baltimore state's attorney's office, according to Judge Charles E. Moylan of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, who as the city's top prosecutor hired her in 1966.

At the time of her death, she was assigned to the victims' services unit.

Around the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, she was known and admired for her ability to keep lawyers calm, judges happy and crime victims comfortable.

"Jean was a delightful person who had an engaging personality," Judge Moylan said.

He said she "was such a charming, pleasant and diplomatic person, who handled difficult problems with a smile. She could easily defuse and disarm a situation, whether it was an excitable attorney or a crime victim."

"She was an indispensable cog in the criminal justice system machine and everyone from judges to attorneys thought and spoke so highly of her," the judge said.

Haven Kodeck, deputy state's attorney who worked with Mrs. Anderson for more than 25 years, said, "No one could work that desk the way she could. She tried to satisfy her customers rather than just brush them off."

Said Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph P. McCurdy: "She enjoyed hearing and telling good stories and loved to make me blush because I have a fair Irish complexion.

"One day when I called Rent Court to order the door opened and in rolled Mrs. Anderson in her wheelchair with a birthday cake for me sitting in her lap. Then the whole courtroom got up and sang happy birthday. Boy, was my face red.

"Her death is a big loss to the courthouse and we're all going to miss her," Judge McCurdy said.

In 1986, after suffering two heart attacks and the amputation of both legs, Mrs. Anderson refused to retire. To get to work, she drove a van specially equipped with hand controls. At work, she used a motorized wheelchair.

"She was one of the most resilient individuals I've ever known," said Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy. "After her amputations, she came back to work and never skipped a beat. I've never seen anything like it. Her fortitude to keep on going taught us all something."

Mrs. Anderson used her life as an example to patients at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.

Born Jean Stovall in Chicago, she was raised in nearby Glencoe, Ill. She was a 1942 graduate of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., where one of her classmates was actor Charlton Heston.

She went to Washington during the early days of World War II and attended Marshall College for a short time. She then worked as a society columnist for a black newspaper where she wrote a column called "Stovall's Roll Call."

In 1948, she married the Rev. Leonard Curtis Anderson and the couple moved to Baltimore and settled in Govans. They would later divorce. Mrs. Anderson continued living in the St. Georges Avenue home until her death.

She was a member of Ray of Hope Baptist Church, 3000 Parkside Drive in Baltimore, where services will be held at noon today.

She is survived by a son, Curtis S. Anderson, and two daughters, Donna Money and Mona Wilson, all of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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