Mary L. Wilson, who was one of the secretaries to four Maryland governors and was known as "Mrs. Maryland Democrat," died Friday of cancer at Lions Manor Nursing Home in Cumberland. She was 95.
In a 1960 interview in the Cumberland Evening Times, Mrs. Wilson stated the substance of her life's work:
"I was born a Democrat, and I'll always be a Democrat. I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and will work in every way possible to get women as well as men into the Democratic Party."
Beginning as a typist in the Allegany County Democratic headquarters after graduation from Tri-State Business College in 1919, Mrs. Wilson's career led her to Annapolis in 1938, where she was a secretary for Gov. Herbert R. O'Conor. She also was a secretary for Govs. William Preston Lane Jr., Theodore R. McKeldin and J. Millard Tawes.
"Indefatigable -- that's what she was," said Herbert R. O'Conor Jr. of Baltimore, son of the late governor. "She was very loyal to my father, and long after my father left public office continued to be a faithful and loyal friend."
Despite days beginning early and often stretching past midnight, Mrs. Wilson never tired of being an eyewitness to history, attending conventions, inaugurations and White House functions.
"She recalled attending one of FDR's inaugurations when it rained and all the guests invited back to the White House were taken to a lower floor where their wet clothes were ironed dry," said Dorothy Dorn, a niece who lives in Cumberland.
Her work allowed her to get to know first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman and Lady Bird Johnson, all of whom she admired, her niece said.
She was "shrewd and competent when it came to politics," her niece said, and capable of crossing party lines.
When Mr. McKeldin was elected governor in 1951 as a Republican, he chose to keep Mrs. Wilson.
"He always called her 'Democrat' and never 'Mrs. Wilson,' " Mrs. Dorn said.
"She knew where all the political skeletons were buried," said Mildred Otenasek, a retired Loyola College professor of economics who served from 1956 to 1980 as a Democratic national committeewoman from Maryland. "That's why she was so valuable to Governor McKeldin."
In 1959, she was elected chairwoman of the United Democratic Women's Clubs of Maryland Inc., which she helped organize throughout the state. She was a delegate to the 1960 Democratic Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy.
She was born Mary L. Ritter 1901 in Cumberland, where she graduated from Allegany County schools. She was married in 1920 to Samuel A. Wilson, an Internal Revenue Service auditor who died in 1982.
The Wilsons moved to Govans in 1937 where they lived until returning to Cumberland in 1977.
Mrs. Wilson was known for parties in the back yard of her Govans home on Harwood Avenue, where it was not uncommon to see governors, judges and politicians cracking crabs and drinking beer.
"The day she died, she said to me, 'I love everybody,' " Mrs. Dorn said. "And I can truthfully say that she did. She tried to help as many people as she could."
At her death, she was a member of the executive board of the United Democratic Women's Clubs of Maryland Inc., Daughters of the Nile No. 118, the Red Cross and the History House in Cumberland.
She was a former communicant of Nativity Episcopal Church in Baltimore, and was a member of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Cumberland, where plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.
In addition to her niece, she is survived by a brother, Paul H. Ritter of Wingate in Dorchester County; and a nephew, David Twigg of King George, Va.
Pub Date: 8/28/97