Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Gladys Noon Spellman (1918-1988)
MSA SC 3520-2129

Biography:

Gladys Noon Spellman was born March 1, 1918 in New York City to Henry and Bessie G. Noon.1 She attended New York and Washington, D.C. public schools, George Washington University, and graduate school at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.2 With husband Reuban Spellman, she had three children: Stephen Louis Spellman, Richard Eric Spellman, and Dana Spellman O’Neill.3

Spellman began her career as an  elementary school teacher in Prince George’s county. At this time, she was president of the countywide PTA.4  Through her work with the PTA, Spellman “saw how the system worked in Annapolis.” Her dissatisfaction with this system prompted her to get involved in county politics, running for Prince George’s County Commissioner in 1962. According to her friend Congressman Carlton R. Sickles: “I think she recognized that the system wasn’t responding to the people, and she wanted to change that. She was the one who always brought people together.”6  When Spellman won the election, she became the first woman ever on the Board of County Commissioners.7

Spellman served two terms in her county office, chairing the council for two years during her second term. In 1967, President Johnson appointed her to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.9  From 1971-1974, she served as Councilwoman at-large.10  In 1972, she was president of the National Association of Counties.11

In 1974, Spellman defeated Republican John B. Burcham, Jr. to win the Fifth District seat in the House of Representatives.12  During her time in Congress, Spellman worked hard to serve her constituency, paying particular attention to the interests of federal workers.  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. She chaired the latter committee’s Subcommittee on Compensation and Employee Benefits.13

On October 31, 1980, Spellman visited a Laurel mall to judge a Halloween costume contest. While there, she suffered a heart attack which left her comatose for eight years.14  Four days after her heart attack, Spellman won her campaign for a fourth term in Congress, defeating Republican Kevin Igoe in a landslide.15  Her seat was ultimately declared vacant on February 24, 1981, “the first time the House vacated the seat of a member who had become mentally or physically disabled.”16  Spellman died on June 19, 1988 in Rockville, MD and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.17

Spellman’s work in Congress earned her numerous honors. In 1982, The Baltimore Washington Parkway was renamed the Gladys Noon Spellman Parkway through an act of Congress and legislation by the Maryland General Assembly.18  Also named in her honor are a senior citizens apartment house in College Park, a long-term care facility at Price George’s General Hospital Center, a special fund for public policy studies at the University of Maryland, and a Prince George’s County elementary school.19

Notes

1 Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-1989, Bicentennial Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989. 1851-1852
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Legislative History Project Collective) Clippings folder, MSA SC 1138-001-2129.
2 O'Brien, Dennis. "Ex-lawmaker Gladys Spellman dies." The Baltimore Sun. 20 June 1988. 1D, 4D.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Women In Congress, 1917-1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.
9 O'Brien, Dennis. "Ex-lawmaker Gladys Spellman dies." The Baltimore Sun. 20 June 1988. 1D, 4D.
10 Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Women In Congress, 1917-1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.
11 Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-1989, Bicentennial Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989. 1851-1852
12 Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Women In Congress, 1917-1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.
13 Ibid.
14 O'Brien, Dennis. "Ex-lawmaker Gladys Spellman dies." The Baltimore Sun. 20 June 1988. 1D, 4D.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-1989, Bicentennial Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989. 1851-1852
18 O'Brien, Dennis. "Ex-lawmaker Gladys Spellman dies." The Baltimore Sun. 20 June 1988. 1D, 4D.
19 Ibid.
http://www.pgcps.org/~gspell/

Biography written by 2001 summer intern Alicia Brooks
 

Return to Gladys Noon Spellman's Introductory Page
 


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