VIDEO: Former state senator Clarence Mitchell III dies
A year after leaving the Senate, Mr. Mitchell was convicted of trying to obstruct a grand jury, wire fraud and trying to tamper with a federal investigation. He served 18 months of a 41
2-year prison sentence.
He was named for his father, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., the civil rights leader and longtime lobbyist for the NAACP.
“I just loved Clarence Mitchell,” said former state senator Julian L. Lapides (D), a colleague and friend who lives in Bolton Hill. “You might get angry at him, but you couldn’t stay angry for long.”
Lapides recalled that he and Mr. Mitchell entered the House of Delegates in the same year. “Our careers were parallel,” Lapides said.
“When we first went into the Senate in 1967, there were no microphones. Clarence was one of the most eloquent speakers on the Senate floor, and he was smart as he could be. If he were ever running late, he could be on his feet about an issue that affected him and give the most impassioned and eloquent response,” Lapides said, praising Mr. Mitchell as “one of the best extemporaneous speakers” he ever knew.
Clarence Mitchell III’s nephew, Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore), said one of his uncle’s greatest accomplishments was helping establish equal rights in Maryland. He helped shape the state’s public accommodations law in 1963 that required restaurants and hotels to serve all customers. When the law passed, it only applied to half of Maryland’s counties.
“He led a rich life through public service,” Mitchell said. “To me, he was Uncle Clarence. He was a very gregarious, fun uncle. . . . He had a quick wit all the way up to his last moments.”
Mitchell said his uncle told him last week to celebrate his life, not mourn his death.
“He told me, ‘I don’t want any crying.’ He said, ‘I want you to have a party and celebrate my life,’ ” Mitchell recalled. “He said he would be celebrating up in heaven.”
Mitchell said that when his uncle was elected, Mr. Mitchell could not join white legislators at dinner or stay in Annapolis hotels. Instead, he stayed at his grandparents’ summer house at Arundel on the Bay.
From the floor of the State House in 1963, Mr. Mitchell said the public accommodations law was only a start.
“This by no means satisfies us,” he said. “The rights of human beings should be given immediately and not parceled out.
“If you segregate me because I am dirty, I can wash. If you segregate me because I have no education, I can get educated. If you segregate me, however, because of my color, I can do nothing about this. I cannot wash off my color.”