Elinor Louise Gee Murphy, state senator, dies

Former public school principal and world traveler was named to fill a vacancy in the Maryland Senate in 1982

  • Elinor Louise Murphy, shown in 1982
Elinor Louise Murphy, shown in 1982 (Weyman Swagger, Baltimore…)
February 28, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Elinor Louise Gee Murphy, a former state senator who represented Northeast Baltimore and was also a city school principal, died of cancer Feb. 15 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 88 and lived in Morgan Park.

Born Elinor Louise Gee in Baltimore and raised on Druid Hill Avenue, she developed a love of travel from her father, Ossarew Gee, who was a personal assistant to Baltimore & Ohio Railroad executives, including President Daniel Willard. She accompanied her parents on trains as a child and later visited five continents.

Mrs. Murphy, who was known as Louise, was a 1940 Frederick Douglass High School graduate and earned a bachelor's from what is now Coppin State University in 1944.

Family members said she was educated in an era when students of color were prevented from attending the University of Maryland. She traveled to other states to pursue an advanced degree at the expense of the state of Maryland and earned a master's degree in education from New York University in 1946.

She later received an advanced certificate in administration and supervision from the Johns Hopkins University.

She began teaching in Baltimore public schools in 1944. Over the next four decades, she was a classroom teacher, specialist, vice principal and principal. Family members said she was the first African-American principal of Tench Tilghman Elementary School.

She retired in 1988 after 44 years of service.

Her interest in politics began in 1972, when she attended the National Democratic Convention as a delegate for Shirley Chisholm. Mrs. Murphy was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee and subsequently selected to replace Maryland state Sen. John Carroll Byrnes in 1982 when he was appointed to the Circuit Court. The selection made her the second African-American female senator in the Maryland General Assembly. She served out the term, which was about a year, and did not seek re-election.

"She was one of the most delightful people you could meet," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, who served alongside her. "She was gregarious, warm, friendly and the most outgoing personality imaginable."

Mrs. Murphy was a member of the boards of the Morgan Christian Center and the Arena Playhouse. She was a past president of the Morgan Park Community Association and the Baltimore City Retired Teachers Association.

In 1999, she was appointed to the Maryland Aviation Commission and served two terms.

For more than 65 years, she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She also belonged to the Alpha Wives, the Chipparettes and the Tuesday Night Bridge Club.

In addition to travel, she enjoyed reading and was well-known to the staff at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She visited the library at least twice a week and checked out romance and mystery novels.

"My mother's family was extremely important to her," said her daughter, Sharon Dow of Windsor Mill. "She adored me and her two grandsons. She would be found at every school play, recital, science fair and graduation. She arrived early to get a front-row seat so she could document every moment in the lives of her grandsons."

A Mass was offered Feb. 20 at St. James Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, where she received her early Christian education and later taught Sunday school, was a guild member, a chalicist and a lay Eucharistic minister.

In addition to her daughter and grandsons, survivors include two great-granddaughters. Her 1949 marriage to A. Myles Robinson ended in divorce. In 1971, she married Howard H. Murphy. He died in 1979.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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