Marie C. Henderson, who played key campaign roles for two Baltimore mayors and for many years held jobs in city and Baltimore County government, died of breast cancer Sunday at Mercy Medical Center. The Randallstown resident was 62.
A political consultant, fund-raiser and event planner, she was well known in city and county circles for the past three decades.
Born Marie Catherine Wilson in Baltimore and raised on Calhoun Street, she was a 1959 graduate of Douglass High School and attended Howard University in Washington. She was the daughter of Marguerite Campbell, a Southwest Baltimore civic activist who also was involved in politics.
Ms. Henderson worked for the Social Security Administration for several years before helping to get out the vote in West Baltimore for William Donald Schaefer's first election as mayor in 1971.
Offered a city job in his administration, she worked first in the Manpower program and later in the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice. She ran the 1976 Afram Festival at Hopkins Plaza, and promoted a sellout Unity Ball for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1977.
In 1978, she was hired away by then-Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis as director of the county Community Relations Commission as he sought to increase the number of African-Americans serving in the government.
She went on to serve in Donald P. Hutchinson's administration as an affirmative action ambassador.
A 1987 article in The Sun credited Ms. Henderson with recruiting African-Americans for the county Police Department. She also ran successful United Way campaigns.
A confidante of Clarence H. Du Burns, she ran his campaign for the City Council presidency in 1983 that positioned him to become Baltimore's first black mayor when Mr. Schaefer was elected governor. She was master of ceremonies for Mr. Burns' 1987 inauguration as mayor at the War Memorial.
"She was always a busy woman," said her sister, Shirley W. Jewett of Woodlawn. "She helped a lot of people and was known for it all over town. She was a born coordinator and was always hosting events."
For the past 23 years, she had been chairwoman of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Commission on Correctional Standards, which oversees the health, welfare and safety of the state's 24,000 offenders.
"She was a vivacious personality, a strong and wonderful woman [who] brought corrections light-years ahead," said Tom Fitzgerald, acting executive director of the Commission on Correctional Standards. "She let everyone have their say on the commission. It was incredible how she could organize a group and bring it to a consensus."
Ms. Henderson was a longtime supporter of the Baltimore School for the Arts on Cathedral Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.
"She had an incredible enthusiasm for the school," said its former director, David Simon of Roland Park. "Even when she was engaged in some political movement, whether she won or lost, she recovered quickly and never complained. She always used the phrase, `It's a win-win situation.'"
"She was great political fund-raiser and event planner. When Marie sent out invitations, everybody came because she knew so many people," said Kevin Brown, the city housing department's director of public relations. "And she was nice to everybody. She put a positive spin on everything she did."
A Mass of the Resurrection will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph Passionist Monastery Roman Catholic Church, Monastery Avenue and Old Frederick Road.
In addition to her sister, survivors include two sons, Michael Henderson of Baltimore and Edward Henderson Jr. of Owings Mills; a brother, James Wilson of Catonsville; three grandchildren; and her companion, Dennis Atkinson of Randallstown. Her 1964 marriage to Edward Henderson ended in divorce.