Frank D. Boston Jr., a three-term delegate to the Maryland General Assembly from his native West Baltimore who lost a controversial state Senate bid in 1998, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at Sinai Hospital. He was 72.
A popular legislator known for his attention to education issues, Mr. Boston went against the advice of many fellow city legislators when he challenged incumbent seven-term incumbent Clarence W. Blount for the 41st District Senate seat in 1998. The race between the erstwhile General Assembly colleagues was bitter, especially after Mr. Boston accused Mr. Blount of living in Pikesville and using his Northwest Baltimore apartment only as a mail drop. Mr. Boston's challenge was initially upheld by the courts, which ordered Mr. Blount's name taken off the ballot. But less than a month before the September Democratic primary, Maryland's highest court overturned the decision, ruling that, although Mr. Blount spent the bulk of his time at his Pikesville residence, he never intended to abandon the apartment and could legally claim it as his residence.
Mr. Boston ended up losing the election, 68 percent to 30 percent.
Losing that election "was extremely tough on my father," said Frank D. Boston III, a lawyer and lobbyist based in Baltimore. "After that decision, it was impossible for him to beat the longstanding senator. That hurt him deeply."
Leaving the General Assembly was especially tough for his father, the younger Mr. Boston said, because he genuinely enjoyed the game of politics, the art of public service and the ability to solve problems for his constituents. "My father, he loved helping people and leading people," Frank Boston III said. "He loved politics, he loved being in Annapolis, he loved being on the committees. He loved being part of that good-old-boy network."
Frank D. Boston Jr. was born in 1938 on Harlem Avenue in West Baltimore. A graduate of Douglass High School, he would later receive a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland — after attending classes at both the university's College Park and Eastern Shore campuses — and a master's degree in education from the Johns Hopkins University.
For much of his life, Frank Boston III said, his father worked what were essentially two full-time jobs, as a teacher in Baltimore City public schools (including Canton Junior, Harlem Park Junior, Northwestern Senior and Francis M. Wood Alternative High School) beginning in 1965, and as a member of the University of Maryland police, working at the Baltimore campus. He was also at various times a landlord, a prison guard at the Patuxent Institution and owner of a catering company (Boston Caterers) and an oil delivery company (City Fuel Oil).
"He was a tough man growing up," his son recalled. "He worked two full-time jobs so that my sister and I could go to private schools."
Mr. Boston was also active in local politics, serving as president of local 1694 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Office Workers (AFSCME) and as a member of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee. In 1986, with an open seat in the 41st District delegation, Mr. Boston placed third in the Democratic primary behind incumbents Margaret "Peggy" Murphy and Nathaniel T. Oaks. With no Republican opposition, he was elected to the house in November and re-elected in 1990 and 1994.
"The barber shop was his think tank," Frank Boston III said of his father, recalling how he would hold court at Capel's on Edgewood Street. "That was where he would go to get the pulse of the community."
As a legislator, Mr. Boston quietly earned the respect of his colleagues. In addition to serving, at various times, on the Constitutional and Administrative Law, Judiciary, Commerce and Government Matters and Economic Matters committees, he was deputy majority whip from 1992 to 1994. He also served as chair of the Baltimore City delegation.
"I think his priorities were good," said former state Del. and Sen. Julian "Jack" Lapides, who served with Mr. Boston as part of Baltimore's General Assembly delegation. "He wasn't a hell-raiser. I think he concentrated on substantive pieces of legislation, like education and education reform. I think that was his major contribution, in the area of education."
After leaving Annapolis, Mr. Boston took a job with Harford County government in 1999, as manager of the Office of Human Relations. He was still working for Harford County at the time of his death.
"He worked as a troubleshooter," his son recalled. "He loved that job."
Mr. Boston's passions were not restricted to politics. He enjoyed a good joke, his son said. And he relished few things more than a good meal.
"You always enjoyed good food when you were out with him," said his cousin, Terrell Boston-Smith. Mr. Boston's favorite restaurant, both his son and cousin agreed, was Boccaccio's in Little Italy.
In addition to AFSCME, Mr. Boston was a member of Council 92 of the AFL-CIO, of the Maryland State Teachers Association and the Baltimore Teachers Union. He was also a member of the Windsor Democratic Organization.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Ames Memorial United Methodist Church, 1529 N. Carey St.
In addition to his son, Mr. Boston is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Beverly D. Johnson; a daughter, Carmen Boston of Washington, D.C.; and another son, Christopher Hicks, of Baltimore. He is also survived by two sisters, Sister Ruth Marian Boston of Columbus, Ohio, and Carmen Contee, of Gaithersburg; and a brother, Gary Boston, of Arizona.