Barbara Houghton Chinn, a highly regarded figure in Baltimore County Republican politics, died Saturday of heart failure at her home in Southland Hills, near Towson. She was 78.
Mrs. Chinn immersed herself in Republican politics for nearly 30 years and had served as a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee and as president of the local chapter of the Federation for Republican Women.
She had attended six Republican national conventions, beginning in 1980, and had been a hostess at the inaugural balls for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
"What a grand lady she was. She worked in everyone's campaign and simply loved Baltimore County and Maryland politics," said Douglas B. Riley, a lawyer and former Republican county councilman from Towson who is a candidate for county executive.
"Campaigns bring out the best and worst in people, and there was something about her presence that made them rise above the pettiness. She got a lot of fun out of politics," he said.
"She was tall and thin and had a regal bearing that made her look like the prototype grand dame," Mr. Riley said.
Her formidable appearance thinly masked a vivacious sense of humor, friends said.
"She always had a twinkle in her eye and was a tremendously funny person. At the 1992 convention in Houston, she enjoyed telling everyone we were roommates," Mr. Riley said, laughing. "However, on the floor of the convention, she was a serious delegate."
"She was a stalwart in the Republican Party. She strongly believed in the two-party system and of the need of the Republican Party in Maryland," said former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley. "She was a moderate Republican and worked in all of my campaigns."
Mrs. Bentley recalled Mrs. Chinn's ability to get things done.
"She brought a great deal of knowledge and determination to my campaigns. ... Whenever anyone needed a job done, she did it. She was a great volunteer and gave a heck of a lot of time to the party. Whatever she could do, she did," Mrs. Bentley said.
U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. recalled Mrs. Chinn's involvement in his first campaign for the House of Delegates in 1986.
"She supported me in my first race when it wasn't the hottest thing to do. She was the kind of person you wanted on your side. She had no enemies, and no one could ever say `no' to her," Mr. Ehrlich said.
The daughter of a career Army officer, she was born Barbara Houghton at Fort Clark, Texas. She was a graduate of Fort Leavenworth High School in Kansas.
She earned her bachelor's degree in 1946 from Kansas State University. The same year, she married Charles B. Chinn, a director of marketing for Navieros de Puerto Rico Steamship Co. He died in 1991.
Mrs. Chinn taught English at Kansas State University in the late 1940s and at Hotel Dieu Hospital School of Nursing in Beaumont, Texas, during the early 1950s.
In 1970, she moved to Towson and taught for several years at Church of the Redeemer Day School, and later was a receptionist at the Park School. From 1992 until retiring last year, she was the receptionist at the Pickersgill retirement community in Towson.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road in Rodgers Forge.
Survivors include a son, Robert S. Chinn of Charlottesville, Va.; two daughters, Barbara C. Newbauer of Greene, Maine, and Elizabeth A. Lean of Columbia; and three grandchildren.