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Gladys Spellman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gladys Spellman
Gladys noon spellman.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – February 24, 1981
Preceded byLawrence Hogan
Succeeded bySteny Hoyer
Personal details
Gladys Blossom Noon

(1918-03-01)March 1, 1918
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 19, 1988(1988-06-19) (aged 70)
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Reuben Spellman
Alma materGeorge Washington University
Graduate School USA

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 February 24, 1981. She was a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life

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 and county politician

During the 1950s and 1960s, Spellman was a teacher and president of the PTA for Happy Acres Elementary School (renamed the Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School in 1991) and a civic association activist as a young mother and housewife in Cheverly. Her activities led to leadership positions in the reform movement that seized control of the Prince George's County 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. In 1962, running on a reform slate, she served as a member of the Prince George's 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.


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 and 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.[1] 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.[1]

Honors, coma and death

In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Spellman's name and picture.[2]

On October 31, 1980, Spellman was judging a Halloween costume contest at the Laurel Mall when she collapsed after suffering an incapacitating heart attack.[3] 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.[4] When it became clear she was permanently incapacitated and unlikely to recover, the House passed an act declaring the 5th District seat vacant. As a result, Spellman's pay and administrative support was scheduled to be terminated upon the election of someone to her seat.[5] It is the only time that medical reasons have resulted in the House of Representatives declaring a seat vacant.[6] Thirty-two candidates from both parties entered the race, including her husband, Reuben. He was defeated for the Democratic nomination by Steny Hoyer,[7] 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, part of its inaugural class. 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 never regained consciousness and died in a Maryland nursing home on June 19, 1988, after nearly 8 years in a coma.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Women in Congress, 1917–1990 I. Submitted to Congress Mrs Lindy Boggs. Washington DC: Diane Publishing. ISBN 0-7881-4256-9
  2. ^ Wulf, Steve (March 23, 2015). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  3. ^ "Spellman still in critical condition". The Palm Beach Post. November 3, 1980. p. A12.
  4. ^ "H.Res.41 – A resolution providing compensation in lieu of salary and office administrative support to Gladys Noon Spellman". 97th Congress. January 27, 1981. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  5. ^ "H.Res.80 – A resolution declaring a vacancy in the Fifth Congressional District in the state of Maryland". 97th Congress. February 24, 1981. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  6. ^ Beam, Christopher (January 11, 2011). "Fit To Serve: Could Gabrielle Giffords be forced to resign for health reasons?". Retrieved January 18, 2011.
  7. ^ Wilgoren, Jody (January 26, 1998). "Widows of Bono, Capps Are on Well-Worn Path to Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
  8. ^ "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

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

January 3, 1975 – February 24, 1981
Succeeded by
Steny Hoyer
This page was last edited on 16 January 2021, at 05:20
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