Doris J. Spriggs, aide to six mayors

Former Social Security Administration insurance specialist had second career at City Hall

  • Doris Spriggs
Doris Spriggs (Baltimore Sun )
August 24, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Doris J. Spriggs, a former Social Security Administration specialist who later became an aide to six Baltimore mayors, died Tuesday of heart failure at Mercy Medical Center.

The longtime Edmondson Village resident was 79.

"Doris was really one of the characters at City Hall and was such a part of all of our work. She loved the city and loved what we were doing," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

"As a volunteer, she put in more hours than the people who work there full time. She had a kindness and warm spirit. She always wanted to be helpful," she said.

Doris Beatrice Jones was born and raised in East Baltimore, where she graduated in 1951 from Dunbar High School.

After raising her children, Mrs. Spriggs began working in 1968 at the SSA in Woodlawn, where she was chief of special past-entitlement and supervised a staff of 16.

From 1975 to 1985, she was a social insurance specialist; some of her duties included preparing operational policies and procedures, training new specialists, and preparing briefings and reports for management officials.

Mrs. Spriggs first came to City Hall in 1985 as a volunteer during the William Donald Schaefer administration. She prepared daily schedules, wrote and reviewed letters, and handled copying of files.

In 1986, she was named Mr. Schaefer's appointments secretary. Her duties included scheduling the mayor's day, assisting in preparation of speeches, and escorting guests and government officials to the mayor's office or ceremonial room.

After Mr. Schaefer was elected governor and departed for Annapolis in 1987, Mrs. Spriggs stayed on at City Hall in her former capacity, working for his successor, Clarence H. Du Burns, the city's first African-American mayor.

"Doris was just a fixture at City Hall," said Lainy Lebow-Sachs, who was Mr. Schaefer's chief of staff. "She knew everyone who was coming and going, and she knew how to talk to people. She was a riot and knew how to joke with people, including government officials."

Ms. Lebow-Sachs recalled returning to City Hall years later and seeing Mrs. Spriggs still working busily at her desk.

"There she was. She was still there," said Ms. Lebow-Sachs. "She is a great lady and one of the city's great unsung heroes. Even though she wasn't in politics, she knew politics, and politicians treated her like royalty."

When Mr. Burns lost the mayoral primary to State's Attorney Kurt L. Schmoke, who was subsequently elected mayor in 1987, Mrs. Spriggs remained ensconced at her desk in City Hall.

Under Mr. Schmoke, she had different responsibilities as an office assistant, which included serving as assistant press secretary, preparing listings of media events for the mayor's executive staff, as well as fielding constituent calls and reviewing and evaluating letters seeking a mayoral citation.

"She was just a wonderful woman and was everyone's grandmother," said Mr. Schmoke, now a Howard University administrator.

"If she liked one mayor more than the other, we never knew it. She treated us all the same," said Mr. Schmoke. "Even when she was ill, she still tried to get to work. She was just a delightful person, and you'll hear nothing but good things about this lady."

Jim Scales, the mayor's office manager, worked closely with Mrs. Spriggs for 25 years.

"She was very efficient and never had a bad word to say about anybody. She'd get up at 4:30 a.m. and be at her desk by 6 a.m.," said Mr. Scales, who was also a longtime close friend.

"I used to get here really early before I had kids, and she'd still beat me," said Ian T. Brennan, Mayor Rawlings-Blake's press secretary.

"She worked the front desk, and no one got by her. If they weren't properly dressed, they went no further," he said. "She was forthright and challenging. She was the gatekeeper. She'd say, 'I'm old enough to say what I need to say.' "

Mrs. Spriggs reprised her role as office assistant during the mayoral administrations of Martin J. O'Malley and Sheila Dixon.

"She was such a warm, kind, caring and warmhearted person. And when people came to City Hall, Miss Doris was the first person they'd see," said Governor O'Malley.

"To have such a lady as Miss Doris, who treated all with dignity and respect, was a very valuable service that she gave to Baltimore City," he said. "If someone came in there angry about a water bill or something else, she was there to help and serve them. She was a real sweet lady."

"She was laid off on a Friday because of budget reasons during the Dixon administration and was right back here Monday morning working as a volunteer," said Mr. Scales. "She began her career and ended her career as a volunteer. She was quite a character and loved by all."

Mr. Scales said that even though Mrs. Spriggs had dialysis treatments three times a week and wore a brace on a leg because of multiple sclerosis, she "never complained."

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