A Tribute to Congresswoman Parren J. Mitchell

Parren James Mitchell (April 29, 1922 — May 28, 2007)

Parren Mitchell, one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, died on May 28 at age 85 after a lengthy illness.

While serving in the U.S. Congress from 1971 to l987, representing Baltimore in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District as a Democrat, Rep. Mitchell led the fight to create equal opportunities for minority businesses. He was grassroots savvy, scholarly tactical, and intensely determined to achieve what he considered exceptionally important goals.

Rep. Mitchell authored Public Law 95-507, which raised the status of the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in federal agencies to make them active advocates for contracting with minority and small businesses. In l982, Rep. Mitchell sponsored legislation requiring a 10 percent minority goal for contracts awarded in the public works arena under the federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act. In addition, he secured passage of legislation setting a 5 percent goal at the Department of Defense for awarding contracts to minority businesses.

After retiring from Congress, Mitchell continued his uncompromising fight on behalf of minority business through his founding of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Mitchell was the brother of the late Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., a former director of the NAACP’s Washington office and a chief advisor on civil rights to President Lyndon Johnson.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings now represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.

“Throughout his life, Congressman Mitchell dedicated himself to opening the doors to opportunity for all Americans,” Rep. Cummings said. “He was a true ‘servant leader,’ never concerning himself about fame or fortune, but rather devoting himself entirely to uplifting the people he represented.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a prepared statement: “With the death of Congressman Parren Mitchell, our nation has lost one of its most fierce champions for justice and equality. Baltimore has lost one of its favorite sons.”

Speaker Pelosi added: “Growing up in Baltimore, the Mitchell family was revered in my home. Parren Mitchell, his brother Clarence, and indeed his entire family devoted their lives to ending racism and ensuring opportunity, and for that, we have all gained.”

Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-Michigan), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, also paid tribute.

“As a founding member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Mitchell was a galvanizing force for inclusion and fairness for all Americans, with special emphasis on African Americans,” Rep. Kilpatrick said. “A scholar and avid businessman, Rep. Mitchell strategically parlayed his entrepreneurial astuteness into a stellar career in public service.”

View a video of the dedication of the Parren Mitchell Post Office Windows Media – Quicktime – Real Video

This has been adapted from an article at the Web site of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

There is a brief biography of Congressman Parren Mitchell on the CBC Founding Member Biographies page.

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