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Parren James Mitchell was the first Black elected official from the state of Maryland. The Baltimore native was born April 29, 1922.

Mitchell served in World War II after high school and was wounded in combat, earning a Purple Heart. He returned to the states and completed a degree at Morgan State University. When he was denied entry into graduate school at the University of Maryland due to his race, Mitchell aligned with the NAACP and successfully sued to gain entry. He left the school with master’s in sociology.

Mitchell’s congressional career began in 1970 after a failed 1968 bid for the 7th District seat. He ran again and won, holding the seat for 16 years, largely unopposed. He was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served as its chairman at one point. Known for his skills as an orator, Congressman Mitchell became a face of the liberal surge in politics.

In 1986, Mitchell resigned from Congress after an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Mitchell passed on May 28, 2007. In 2015, the University of Maryland at College Park dedicated its Art/Sociology building in his name.

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