Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sen. Gwendolyn Britt Died This Morning

Gwendolyn Britt on the Glen Echo Park Merry-Go-Round

Prince George's Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-47) died suddenly.

The Washington Post reports:
A Democrat who represented Landover Hills, Langley Park and Adelphi, Britt died at 4 a.m. apparently from heart failure or a stroke while still being admitted to Doctor's Community Hospital in Lanham, he said.

"The legislative arena is one filled with people with sharp elbows. She was the antithesis of that," said Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George's). "She was warm, caring, honorable, principled and fair."

Britt, a civil rights and community activist, was entering her fifth year in the Senate.

During her first term in office, former Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan strongly considered Britt as a running mate before he dropped out of the race for governor.

"It was clear she was coming into her own," said Pinsky. "She was taking on more responsiblity and she enjoyed that."

This week the county delegation unanimously reelected her as chairwoman. Britt, a lead Senate sponsor on a bill that granted voting rights to ex-felons, was expected this year to be the lead Senate sponsor of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Advocates for gay rights said they were excited to have Britt leading their effort. . . .

Britt was a Freedom Rider in the 1960s who spent 40 days in jail for sitting in a whites-only train station waiting room in Mississippi. Closer to home, she and four other black friends sat on the merry-go-round at Glen Echo Park, which was segregated at the time, and was arrested for trespassing.
Senator Britt was a real class act. Reflecting her long history of championing civil rights, she was the lead Senate sponsor on the same-sex marriage bill even though there was no political benefit--and some political risk--in being so outspoken on the issue.

I know she'll be missed by many. Sen. Britt is survived by her husband, Travis Britt, two children, and five grandkids. (See also this story in the Baltimore Sun.)