Madie E. Mitchell, 86, longtime Republican leader in Baltimore

January 26, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Madie E. Mitchell was a rare woman -- an urban African-American Republican who dedicated more than five decades of enthusiasm and hard work to building the party in Baltimore.

Mrs. Mitchell, who received a lifetime achievement award from the Maryland Republican Party in 1990, died of heart failure Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 86.

Among her accomplishments were membership on the Republican State Central Committee and voting for George Bush as a Maryland presidential elector in 1988.

Mrs. Mitchell had been a Republican since she started voting in 1932 -- when she cast her first ballot in a presidential election for Herbert Hoover.

She became involved in politics more than half a century ago, at a time "when it was not a common thing to have a black Republican, particularly in urban areas, to have a woman become active the way Madie did," said David R. Blumberg, chairman of the Baltimore GOP, who has known her for more than 20 years.

She was as willing to work on ballot questions and central committee elections as on presidential campaigns, Mr. Blumberg said.

Mrs. Mitchell explained her political affiliation in a 1988 interview with The Evening Sun. "It was tradition," she said. "Down South, all they talked about was Republicans. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. I'm just a Republican and that's all."

She was born Madie Carrington in Prince Edward County, Va., the eldest of 10 children of a sharecropping farm family, and had only an elementary education. She came to Baltimore at age 19, completed her education in evening school and worked for the city election board, retiring in the 1960s.

Mrs. Mitchell's former home on Druid Hill Avenue became known as a place to find delicious food and sound political advice.

Republican National Committeeman Richard P. Taylor recalled his first meeting with Mrs. Mitchell at her home when he was running for a committee seat in 1983. "I must have stayed there six or seven hours. She had people coming in to talk to her and I met them all," he said.

Mrs. Mitchell was "my political mother," said Victor Clark Jr., vice chairman of the state Republican Party. He said he met Mrs. Mitchell in 1979, when he was a candidate for Baltimore City Council from the Fourth District. She also was running -- at the behest of then-state central committee chairman Allan C. Levey, who wanted to fill all slots for offices.

"She said, 'Young man, are you serious?' " Mr. Clark recalled. When he replied that he was, she advised him on nuts-and-bolts zTC politics. She finished first in the primary and he finished second. But both were defeated in the general election -- not surprising in a city that has not elected a Republican to the council since 1939.

Mrs. Mitchell served six four-year terms on the city's Republican Central Committee, retiring in 1992.

She formed the Madie Mitchell Republican Club in West Baltimore when she was running for her first term on the committee. In her honor, the committee met last year at Alice Manor Nursing Home, where she lived for the last three years of her life.

She believed in mixing social life with politics, Mr. Blumberg said. "We don't give parties the way the Democrats do. She felt we'd do better if we had more social activities, made people feel more comfortable."

Mrs. Mitchell had a lively energy, said Carol Hirschburg, a campaign consultant to Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey. "At one point I asked her how old she was and she said '70,' and I was astounded. She had that joy and energy of life. I would've put her in her 50s."

Mrs. Mitchell's husband, John Mitchell, an employee at Bethlehem Steel Corp., died in 1981.

Services will be held at noon today at Payne Memorial Baptist Church, 1716 Madison Ave.

Surviving are two foster sons, Issac Davis and Bernard Davis, both of Farmville, Va.; two brothers, Moses Carrington of Washington and Charles Carrington of Prospect, Va.; and two sisters, Bertha Brown and Elsie Carrington, both of Prospect.

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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