WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: Saluting Baltimore’s Mother Theresa Who Won City Council Without Machine Support

“Many be called but few are chosen. O, how happy are the few.”

 

By Doni Glover, Publisher
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(BALTIMORE – March 2, 2021) – In honor of Women’s History Month, BmoreNews.com salutes the late Mother Theresa of Baltimore, City Councilwoman Bea Gaddy.

She went from being a widowed mother of 5 children to sainthood. Why? Because she fed the hungry of Baltimore … for years … by the tens of thousands.

If you’ve ever been to the Bea Gaddy Center on Chester Street around Thanksgiving, one might witness the spectacle first-hand. There’s the Baltimore County Corvette Club’s participation, for one. They bring food. So does the Maryland Food Bank, as well as a heap of volunteers from up and down the East Coast. They come from as far away as Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia.

Quite honestly, it is the one of the most beautiful sights ever. To see people of all races bringing their gifts, turkeys, and all of the trimmings by car and truck to make sure the disadvantaged of Baltimore have a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day.

Internationally-renown photojournalist J.D. Howard told me the story years ago about how she could go up in the hole and start rattling off names – Darryl, Jimmy, Mike! Come on out!

Howard said, one by one they would come out of the dark and get a hot cup of coffee, a hot bowl of soup or a hot plate. He said he witnessed this over and over. She knew where to go to find the homeless on the streets of Baltimore. She was determined to be a servant.

So, when she ran for City Council in 1999, one would figure that the other elected officials would embrace her, but they didn’t.

Her daughter, Cynthia Brooks (retired military) how runs the center.

When asked about her mother, she told BmoreNews, “Bea Gaddy she was a multifaceted person.” She was whoever you approached her as. If you came to her with a pure heart, she gave it right back. But, most of all she was my total hero. I look back over our lifetime, and the fact that she was widowed with 5 little, teenie kids. She chose to leave home in Wake Forest, North Carolina and come to Baltimore. And when we got here, she didn’t just chill out. She was always busy doing something.”

Brooks continued, “She would bring lunch to us at school every day. I mean a whole meal. We ate together. She came so often that they offered her a job. This was in the 60s before Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. When MLK was killed, we lived in Perkins at Eden and Pratt. I remember this woman named Miss Daisy had come to tell my mother that the Black Panthers were going to bust the windows of any house without Black people and that she needed to put up something black on the front. She cut up the only black item in our house, my sister’s skirt, and put a piece in each window. That night, you could hear the windows being burst.”

Many moons later, Gaddy made a lasting impression on the entire city and eventually parlayed her community service into politics.

“I think they discounted her,” said Brooks. “If she sought their permission or approval, she would have never run.”

She did not seek any official support and went on to serve the City in a more official position.

That’s something I’ve forever admired about her. She won a City Council seat without the backing of the typical machines. She won simply by garnering the support of the people. What a lesson!

MD State Archives BEA GADDY Biography