Grace Webb, 51, Legal Aid Bureau's chief lobbyist

August 05, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Grace L. Webb, an indefatigable champion of human and civil rights, died Thursday at Sinai Hospital of cancer. She was 51.

Ms. Webb, a resident of Randallstown, served as interim chief of staff and a legislative officer for the state Department of Human Resources. Earlier, she served as chief lobbyist for the Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called Ms. Webb "a consummate professional and a role model in an environment where she was the most outstanding African-American lobbyist in Annapolis. ... She was also my friend."

Added Al Collins, chief of staff for Gov. Parris N. Glendening: "Grace was a loyal and superior employee who will be missed greatly by our team."

Born in Petersburg, Va., she was an honor student and cheerleader at Peabody High School, from which she graduated in 1968. She moved to the Baltimore area and attended Morgan State University, where she majored in English from 1969 to 1971. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1973 at the University of Maryland, College Park.

During that time, Ms. Webb was involved in voter registration drives for blacks in the South.

She began her career as a secretary at the Legal Aid Bureau in 1973. Ms. Webb was also an advocate for clients before the Employment Security Administration and served as a lobbyist for Legal Aid.

In 1979, she earned a master's degree in secondary education at Towson State University while becoming the bureau's chief lobbyist. She focused on legislation involving housing, child welfare, education, elder care and rights for the physically and mentally disabled.

After 25 years at the Legal Aid Bureau, Ms. Webb went to work for the state Department of Human Resources, where she served as director of legislation and external affairs and chief of staff.

She coordinated statewide legislative programs, developed policy on legislative issues, helped draft bills and presented testimony before committees of the General Assembly.

Even though waging a fight against cancer, Ms. Webb upheld her professional duties through declining health and many times communicated with her staff from home.

"Grace Webb's commitment to equal justice before the law was a credit to our shared humanity. ... Her death is a great loss to the citizens of Maryland," said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore.

Family members said she had an unquenchable thirst for adventure and discovery. She traveled to Europe and the Caribbean several times and enjoyed theater and art.

She was a member of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and Youth, Pregnancy and Prevention Task Force, and was board chairwoman of the New Era Education Inc. Child Development Center and School.

Some of her awards included the Maryland Legal Services Corp.'s William L. Marbury Award for Outstanding Advocacy and the People, Not Politics, Public Spirit Award.

Services will be held at noon Saturday at Union Baptist Church, 1200 block of Druid Hill Ave.

Survivors include her mother, Lucy E. Webb of Petersburg, Va.; three sisters, Ruby Webb of Randallstown, Delilah Webb of Petersburg and Rosetta Peyton of Montclair, N.J.; twin brothers Marlin and Maurice Webb of Randallstown; and several nieces and nephews.

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