Margaret Neustadt Randol, 83, longtime civil rights activist in city

December 25, 2004|By David Kohn | David Kohn,SUN STAFF

Margaret Neustadt Randol, a Baltimore activist who fought for integration, world peace and other social causes, died Dec. 17 at her residence in Roland Park after a fall. She was 83.

Born Margaret Stuyvesant Houghteling, and known as Peggy, she grew up in Winnetka, Ill. She moved with her family to Washington in 1937, when her father, James Lawrence Houghteling, was appointed commissioner of immigration and naturalization by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Her mother, Laura Delano Houghteling, was a first cousin of the president, and the Houghtelings regularly visited the White House.

"She grew up in a political family," said her daughter, Katherine D. Neustadt of Danbury, N.H.

As a young woman, Mrs. Randol attended a White House Christmas Eve dinner and sat next to presidential adviser Averill Harriman. She wasn't afraid to share her opinions. "She held forth on foreign policy," her daughter said.

In 1943, Mrs. Randol graduated from Vassar College with a major in history and minors in economics and political science. She loved learning, and earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1978.

After Vassar, she moved back to Washington and, in 1947, took a job as a researcher and community organizer with the National Committee on Segregation in the Nation's Capital. That year she married John O. "Jack" Neustadt, a medical student at Johns Hopkins Medical School and later a psychiatrist. In 1948, the couple moved to Baltimore, where she began working as a research analyst for the city's Housing Authority.

Her professional involvement with civil rights spanned the next 30 years of her life, including jobs with Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., promoting equal opportunity in housing, and the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, where she looked into complaints of discrimination in employment, including a major investigation into employment practices at Bethlehem Steel Corp.

A member of the Stony Run Friends (Quaker) Meeting since 1957, she served as a board member of Friends School and helped integrate that institution.

Mrs. Randol was modest, but she played an important role in helping to integrate the city, her daughter said. "There were a handful of people who did it, and she was one of them," she said.

Mrs. Randol had strong political views, and often wrote letters to the editor of The Sun on a variety of issues. From the 1960s through the 1980s, she served on the boards of the Americans for Democratic Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and as vice president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1972, she was a delegate for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern.

Her husband died in 1964, and eight years later, she married Dr. Charles Lee Randol, a pediatrician. Before he died in 1986, the couple worked together on a variety of social causes. In 1984, they helped establish a sanctuary for political refugees at the Stony Run Meeting.

From 1965 to 1989, Mrs. Randol was a trustee of the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, a human rights group. During her tenure, she worked to encourage the United States to extend diplomatic recognition to China.

She traveled to China in 1974, a time when few Westerners were visiting that country. In 1981, she was one of the first Westerners in years to travel to Cambodia.

During the latter part of her career, Mrs. Randol worked at Planned Parenthood and, even after she had officially retired, she continued to work for the Maryland Foster Care Review Board.

A resident of Rosebank Avenue in Govans since 1955, she moved to Roland Park Place in 1999.

A memorial service is planned for Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. at the Stony Run Friends Meeting, 5116 N. Charles St.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two sons, Dr. Philip M. Neustadt of Greensboro, N.C., and Frederic L. Neustadt of New York City; four stepchildren, Liz P. Randol of Hawaii, Lucinda L. Randol of Baltimore, Christopher A.P. Randol of Boulder, Colo., and Caroline Randol Cardin of Tulsa, Okla.; five grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.

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