Gladys Spellman

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Gladys Spellman
Gladys noon spellman.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Lawrence Hogan
Succeeded by Steny Hoyer
Personal details
Born Gladys Blossom Noon
March 1, 1918
New York City, New York
Died June 19, 1988(1988-06-19) (aged 70)
Rockville, Maryland
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Reuben Spellman[2]
Relations Henry and Bessie Noon (parents)[2]
Children Stephen, Richard, and Dana[2]
Alma mater George Washington University[2]

Gladys Noon Spellman (March 1, 1918 – June 19, 1988) was a U.S. Congresswoman who represented the 5th congressional district of Maryland from January 3, 1975 to January 3, 1981. She was a member of the Democratic Party.

Spellman was born Gladys Blossom Noon in New York City and attended Eastern and Roosevelt high schools in Washington, D.C.. She graduated from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and graduate school with the United States Department of Agriculture. Spellman became a teacher, and taught in Prince George's County, Maryland schools. A consummate politician, Spellman was part of the wave of young, new suburban dwellers who moved to Prince George's County from Washington and elsewhere in the years after World War II, and that group remained her constituency throughout her political career.

Teacher[edit]

Spellman's years as a teacher and president of the PTA for Happy Acres Elementary School (renamed in 1991 the Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School), as well as civic association activism as a young mother and housewife in Cheverly during the 1950s led to leadership positions in the reform movement that seized control of the county's government during the 1960s, ousting the old guard Democratic organization that had managed affairs in Prince George's for decades. Spellman was active in the fight for a home rule charter form of government for Prince George's, and in 1962, running on a reform slate, served as a member of the Prince Georges County Board of Commissioners from 1962 to 1970. She served two years as chairman, effectively the head of the county's government. After the establishment of the County Council, Spellman served as councilwoman at large from 1971 to 1974. She was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in 1967 and was awarded the highest honor that could be bestowed by county officials nationwide when she became the first woman elected president of the National Association of Counties in 1972.

Congress[edit]

Spellman easily won the Democratic primary nomination in September 1974 for Maryland's fifth congressional seat, and went on to defeat the Republican John B. Burcham, Jr. in the general election. While in Congress, she served on the Committee on Banking, Currency and Housing, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service (including serving as chairperson of the Subcommittee on Compensation of Employee Benefits). Almost 40 percent of the work force in her district was employed by the federal government – the highest percentage of any congressional district in the nation.

In 1977, Spellman favored legislation to establish a bank to make loans to cooperatives owned by consumers as well as legislation to extend the federal revenue-sharing program. She also voted for the 1975 proposal authorizing $7 billion to loan guarantees for the financially troubled New York City.[3] Spellman also resisted placing restrictions on hiring or promotion of federal employees and opposed Jimmy Carter's plan to reform the civil service system in 1978.[3]

Coma, death and honors[edit]

On October 31, 1980, Spellman was judging a Halloween costume contest at the Laurel Mall when she collapsed after suffering an incapacitating heart attack.[4] She was re-elected to Congress with 80% of the vote against a little-known Republican opponent on November 4, 1980, but it soon became clear that she would be comatose for the remaining years of her life.

In the first weeks of the 97th Congress, the House passed a resolution providing for Spellman's pay as if she had been seated, and for her Congressional office to be supported as if a member of Congress had died or resigned (H.Res. 41, January 27, 1981); and afterwards passed an act declaring the 5th District seat vacant, and providing that Spellman's pay and administrative support would be terminated on the election of someone to her seat (H.Res. 80, February 24, 1981). It is the only time that medical reasons have resulted in the House of Representatives declaring a seat vacant.[5] Thirty-two candidates from both parties entered the race, including her husband, Reuben. He was defeated for the Democratic nomination by Steny Hoyer, who won the special election on May 19 against the Republican nominee, Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott. Hoyer has continued to be re-elected since then, and eventually became House Majority Leader.

In 1985, Spellman was an inductee to the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. The Baltimore–Washington Parkway, a scenic north-south highway in Maryland, is dedicated to Spellman, as is Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School, located in Cheverly, Maryland.

Spellman died on June 19, 1988 in a nursing home in suburban Maryland. She had never come out of the coma.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "SPELLMAN, Gladys Noon – Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Office of History and Preservation. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d "A Changing of the Guard : Traditionalists, Feminists, and the New Face of Women in Congress, 1955–1976" (PDF). Government Printing Office. pp. 212–214. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  3. ^ a b Women in Congress, 1917–1990 I. Submitted to Congress Mrs Lindy Boggs. Washington DC: Diane Publishing. ISBN 0-7881-4256-9
  4. ^ "Spellman still in critical condition". The Palm Beach Post. Nov 3, 1980. p. A12. 
  5. ^ Beam, Christopher (January 11, 2011). "Fit To Serve: Could Gabrielle Giffords be forced to resign for health reasons?". Slate.com. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  6. ^ "Ex-Rep. Gladys N. Spellman Dies After Being in Coma for 8 Years". The New York Times. June 20, 1988. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lawrence Hogan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th congressional district

January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1981
Succeeded by
Steny Hoyer