Tribute to Victorine Adams

Political pioneer: Because of her groundbreaking work, Baltimore is a better place.

Bright Lights

May 04, 2001

THEY HONORED Victorine Quille Adams the other day for 50 years of service on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City.

That's only part of the story, and not the most important part. Ms. Adams, who will be 90 next year, is a living political pioneer.

Sure, she served briefly in the Maryland General Assembly and 16 years as a constituent-oriented member of the Baltimore City Council from the 4th District. She also established the Baltimore City Fuel Fund to help poor people pay their heating bills. The fund now bears her name.

She and her husband, businessman William L. "Little Willie" Adams, have become charitable donors in recent years, too.

But even before Ms. Adams began her activity with the LWV, she had left her mark on city politics in a way that created a revolution.

Back in 1946, Victorine Adams started holding meetings in her West Baltimore home to get African-Americans interested in city elections. "This was in the Dark Ages when we were called `colored,' which was better than being called `negro' with a small `n,' " she related at the LWV meeting where she was made a life member.

Thus was born the Colored Women's Democratic Campaign Committee of Maryland, organized to help elect a white Republican with a strong civil rights record, Theodore R. McKeldin, mayor of Baltimore. Over the years, this group became a driving force in vastly increasing voter registration in black neighborhoods, getting out the vote on Election Day, manning precincts to hand out sample ballots, teaching people to use the voting machines.

Not only did this campaign committee help elect McKeldin mayor in 1947, it was instrumental, as Ms. Adams put it, in "getting out the vote to elect people who looked like me to improve the economic and social conditions in the community."

The group played a pivotal role in the breakthrough election of a black state senator, Harry A. Cole, in 1954 and in later shattering the machine control of political boss James H. "Jack" Pollack in the 4th District.

What a difference this ex-school teacher and retired legislator has made. Baltimore is a better place because of her lifetime contributions.

Bright Lights spotlights people who make a difference in the quality of life in this area. It appears periodically in this column.

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