BALTIMORE (WJZ) –Civil rights, social justice and some controversy. Baltimore is remembering former state Senator Clarence Mitchell III, who died Thursday after a battle with lung cancer at age 72.
Mary Bubala has his story.
Clarence Mitchell III was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates at age 23.
He went on to to serve in the Senate for 20 years, carrying on the equal rights legacy of his father Clarence Mitchell Jr. Baltimore’s circuit court building is named for him and the Mitchell name is synonymous with civil rights.
“I got a lot of being able to fight and stand up and have a voice of my own from him,” said his son Clarence Mitchell IV.
Mitchell IV, known as C4 to WBAL radio listeners, spoke about his father’s legacy on the air Thursday morning.
“Don’t make my father larger or smaller in life than he actually was,” he said. “He saw wrong and tried to make it right. He saw pain and tried to heal it. He saw racism and tried to stop it.”
Clarence Mitchell III’s life did involve some controversy.
In 1987, he was convicted of influence peddling and served 16 months in federal prison. But he didn’t go down without a fight.
“People are upset by the Joint Center for Political Studies revelation that three out of five black elected officials in this country are under investigation by this administration,” Mitchell III once said.
But Mitchell’s legacy, according to today’s leaders, is his work advancing civil rights, including desegregation in Maryland.
Governor Martin O’Malley released the following statement:
“The City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland today lost a true public servant. Senator Mitchell dedicated his life to secure equal rights for all under the law, to help nurture and mentor a new generation of political leaders and to engage his community in the political process. He understood that there is far more that unites us than divides and that as public servants, it is our responsibility to advance the greater good. My thoughts and prayers are with the Mitchell family on this difficult day.”
“A legendary leader, a community activist, and again the glue in his family. It is a loss for the Mitchell family and a loss for our city and state,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin released this statement:
“I served for many years with Clarence Mitchell in the Maryland General Assembly and I saw first-hand his passion for civil rights and for making sure that his constituents got the services and resources that they needed. He helped to pave the road for many African-American leaders who followed him, and I join the community in mourning his passing.”
Senator Mitchell also served as an adviser to presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter. He was also an early supporter of President Barack Obama.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.