Mary E. Bryson, Carroll County civic activist, dies

She had urged racial harmony and had been a trustee at Western Md. College

  • Mary E. Bryson
Mary E. Bryson
May 17, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Mary E. Bryson, a Carroll County civic activist and longtime trustee of what is now McDaniel College, died Thursday of heart failure at Father's Care, her Westminster farm.

She was 96.

The daughter of a Methodist minister and a homemaker, Mary Elizabeth Brown was born in Cumberland and raised there as well as in Washington, Baltimore and Snow Hill, where her father pastored churches.

After graduating from Washington's Eastern High School in 1931, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1935 from what was then Western Maryland College.

During her college years, she was known as "Brownie," and the scholar-athlete served as editor of the college yearbook.

While at college, she met and fell in love with Brady Oliver Bryson, a classmate who later became a prominent tax lawyer. They married in 1938.

The couple spent the early years of their marriage in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington. While her husband was serving in the Navy during World War II, she settled in Carroll County.

After serving as a member of the prosecution team at the Nuremburg war crime trials after the end of the war, Mr. Bryson returned to Carroll County.

In 1950, Mrs. Bryson and her husband purchased and restored Father's Care, a 100-acre farm with a brick house that dated to 1830 and a barn that dated to 1817. The couple furnished it with English and American furniture that they collected.

In addition to raising her four children, Mrs. Bryson led an active community and political life. She was a trustee of the Carroll County Public Library, a director of the League of Women Voters of Carroll County and a member of the steering committee for the establishment of the Governor's Council of the Arts for Carroll County.

In the early 1960s, she was an original member of the Carroll County Human Relations Committee.

"She was always very interested in political and social issues and became active with the Human Relations Commission in the 1960s because she believed in racial harmony and equal opportunities for all people," said a son, John A. Bryson, who lives in Washington.

In 1967, Mrs. Bryson presented a six-part program to Carroll County. The program's intent was to "stamp out the root causes of social unrest," reported The Evening Sun, and its message was that not to act, even though the African-American community living in the county was small, was wrong.

"If, in fact, the problems are of a smaller scale than prevails elsewhere, all the more reason for us to be ashamed of not having tried to solve them," she told the newspaper.

Mrs. Bryson, a Republican who believed that women should be active politically, led by example. In the 1960s, she unsuccessfully ran to become a member of the House of Delegates and then the state Senate.

In 1967, she was elected to represent Carroll County at the Maryland Constitutional Convention. Although the revised state constitution failed to win acceptance by voters, many of the convention's suggestions were adopted in later years.

"We served on the Maryland State Constitutional Convention together from 1967 to 1968. There was a challenge to her running, but she got elected," said William B. Dulany, a longtime friend who has practiced law in Westminster for nearly 60 years, and is a managing partner of Dulany, Leahy, Curtis and Williams.

"Mary was a liberal Republican, and I'm a conservative Democrat," said Mr. Dulany, with a laugh. "She was a very easygoing person who was interested in so many things."

Mrs. Bryson was elected to the board of trustees of Western Maryland College in 1967, serving on the board until stepping down in 1984.

She and her husband, who died in 2006, endowed the George E. Brown Family Memorial Scholarship in honor of her father.

"She served on various committees of the board of trustees and was a staunch supporter of the growth and expansion of the college," said Joyce Muller, associate vice president of communications and marketing at the Westminster college.

"She was always very interested in the college," said Mr. Dulany, who served with Mrs. Bryson on the college's board. "She was a very effective trustee and always attended all of the meetings."

Ms. Muller recalled Mrs. Bryson injecting a note of fun at trustee meetings.

"We always had dinner and music at the meetings. I recall one time when she brought her husband to a meeting that they got up and started dancing and then they got everyone else dancing," said Ms. Muller. "They were young at heart, and you don't always see that in a business setting."

After her husband, who was a wine aficionado and a wine columnist, retired in 1980, the couple restored historic buildings in Westminster. They founded and operated Locust Wines and Antiques on Main Street, until retiring in 2001.

Mr. Dulany said that Mrs. Bryson and her husband were "popular members of the same Carroll County cocktail circuit" of which he was a member.

"She had a delightful sense of humor and was capable of incredible insights when it came to sizing up people," her son said.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete Tuesday.

Mrs. Bryson is also survived by another son, Timothy S. Bryson of Westminster; a daughter, Linda Lucatorto of Washington; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Another son, David Brady Bryson, died in 1999.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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