Delegate Hattie Harrison

Delegate Hattie Harrison

Del. Hattie Harrison, known affectionately as the “Fairy Godmother” of the Maryland House, died Monday, and Tuesday her colleagues honored her memory by beginning the legislative session with a prayer in her honor and by decorating her desk with yellow roses.

Harrison was the longest-serving delegate in state history, and she was the first African American woman to chair a legislative committee in the House.

Del. Melvin Stukes, another Baltimore Democrat, delivered a eulogy for Harrison, describing her as “one of the best delegates that the state of Maryland had to offer.”

In an interview, Stukes said that Harrison was a “walking encyclopedia” who had mentored nearly every delegate in the House, regardless of their political affiliation.  “Whether you  were an R, an I, or a D, Hattie was Mama to everyone.”

Stukes reminisced about his experiences sitting next to Harrison in the House, saying that they bonded over Southern cuisine and their mutual struggles with disabilities.  (He walks with a cane, and Harrison used a motorized scooter in the years before her death.)

During Harrison’s illness, she was deeply moved by the kindness of her friends  in the General Assembly, Stukes said.  “Her spirits were lifted so much when delegates came over to pat her on the back and ask how she was doing,” he remembered, adding that Harrison commanded “universal respect” in the House.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell her when she broke my toe with her scooter,” Stukes said.  “That’s how much I respected her.”

–Ilana Kowarski

Here is a story about Del. Hattie Harrison we did on her 83th birthday on Feb. 11, 2011.