Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Dorothy F. Bailey
MSA SC 3520-16882

Biography:

The Honorable Dorothy F. Bailey, a Temple Hills, Maryland resident for over thirty-five years, received her outstanding reputation in Maryland from her achievements in civil service. Bailey’s extensive and incredibly successful career as a community activist shows her high level of kindness and desire to improve the lives of those around her, and her long-running career in the county government has allowed her to further her devotion and service to those in Prince George’s County, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, and the State of Maryland. 

Born in Dunn, North Carolina, Bailey was the third of four children. Bailey resided in North Carolina until her grandfather died close to the beginning of her senior year of high school, which caused her family to uproot themselves and relocate to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Having attended a segregated school in North Carolina, the move to the North shocked Bailey. She, however, returned to her home state after graduating high school when she enrolled at North Carolina Central University.1 Very soon into her time at North Carolina Central University, Bailey immersed herself in the ideologies circulating around campus about civil rights and decided to become involved in the movement. Bailey’s experiences at the university during such a tumultuous yet historic time helped build her strong and confident exterior. She reflects that “If you got an egg thrown at you, so what? If a brick was thrown at you, you tried to dodge it.”2 After graduating with a degree in sociology in 1962, Bailey returned to Pennsylvania where she taught elementary school for twenty years. She also completed a graduate studies degree in education at Pennsylvania State University.3

Bailey moved to the Washington-metropolitan region after the death of her mother in the mid-1970s. Soon after her move, Bailey fell in love with the Prince George’s County area. Her tenured career of public service in Maryland began when she accepted a position as a curriculum specialist in the University of Maryland’s Upward Bound Program. Bailey was so successful in molding young minds through this program that she was awarded the Dedicated Service Reward in 1981 for her work. This award warranted her much attention, and, in 1982, she was appointed Director of Citizen Services by then Prince George’s County Executive Parris Glendening. She later served as executive director of the Consumer Protection Commission, executive director of the Commission for Families, and director of the Prince George’s County Department of Family Services, Community Partnership Division.4 Her dedication to improving the welfare of those in her community is endless as shown through her civic work in the Prince George’s County government.

While simultaneously working and serving on the board of the National Council of Negro Women, Bailey decided to accept an offer to run one of her colleague’s political campaigns. This was her first involvement in politics, and she soon learned that she possessed a knack for it. She continued her career of running political campaigns and ran a total of campaigns for five separate local and state female candidates. Running the campaigns for these women was an eye-opening experience, sparking Bailey’s realization that “It didn't matter if race was in it, I was for women, because I noticed there was a gap and I thought that we needed more women in politics.”5

Bailey acted upon her belief about the need for women in politics when she decided to run for a seat on the Prince George’s County Council in 1994. Bailey won the seat, and her eight years, including two terms as Chairman, on the county council began.6 Throughout her time on the Council, Bailey tackled many crucial issues affecting the county, including improving the quality of public schools and substance abuse prevention. Her support of various pieces of legislation led to the building of FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, and she also supported legislation for the establishment of the National Harbor entertainment area. Bailey considers the FedEx Field and National Harbor projects some of her most important accomplishments while serving on the council.7  Bailey felt that these projects, especially the National Harbor project, would allow "the world to see the goodness in Prince George's County."8

In 1999, Bailey was re-appointed the Chairman of the Prince George’s County Council. Some saw her appointment as controversial, which opened her to criticism, but Bailey ignored the negativity and maintained her grace in a time of adversity.  In regards to her critics, Bailey wisely said that she "didn't take any of that [criticism] personally…I think if people want to think that, they can think that, but people who know me and know me well, know that I've always been very independent. I think for myself, and I'm capable of doing it and enjoy doing that."9 In her acceptance speech for the position, Bailey released her goals for the year, highlighting her idea to host a “Fatherhood Summit” which would gather the community together “to develop ‘strategies and policies for creating strong fathers’” and also her goal to develop new legislation focused around creating a new pension plan for county employees. Bailey also promised to analyze a Brookings Institute report released around the time of her election that described the racial and economic situation of Prince George’s County and how it differed from its surroundings. Halfway through her time as chairman, Bailey accomplished two out of her three goals.10 The Fatherhood Summit eventually morphed into an annual conference which later became a state-wide initiative.11 These goals still are improving the lives of residents in Maryland, reflecting Bailey’s constant focus to create progress in the lives of her constituents.

For some, politics and legislation are the only methods used to create progressive change. This, however, is far from Dorothy Bailey’s case. In addition to her governmental efforts, Bailey has worked tirelessly to establish a multitude of non-profit organizations in Prince George’s County, many which center on assisting youths in the county. In 1992, Bailey founded the Kiamsha Youth Empowerment Organization for students grades 9-12 that are enrolled in the Prince George’s County Public School System. The organization, which still exists today, aims to “re-ignite a spark in the community by motivating our youth to empower themselves in their communication, presentation, leadership and workshop development skills.”12 The organization is highly successful, and 100% of program participants graduate high school, 98% attend college, and 95% graduate college.13 Another Bailey brainchild youth program is the Prince George’s Tennis and Education Foundation, Inc. which teaches students the athletic and academic opportunities available through playing tennis. Bailey also helped establish LEARN (Landover Educational Athletic Recreational Non Profit) in 1996, an organization that provides scholarships and other financial support to students living in areas surrounding FedEx Field. Clearly, Bailey is incredibly dedicated to serving the youth in her area and the innovative ideas she has put into effect through her public service have touched many lives.

Although a large part of her non-profit work benefits youth in Prince George’s County, Bailey also created a tradition that reaches out to all residents in Prince George’s County and the Washington metropolitan area. In 1999, Bailey channeled her own personal passion for her favorite historical era and organized the Harlem Renaissance Festival. Bailey thought the theme “would be a good opportunity for Prince George's County to come together as a county to do something in remembrance of that time and celebrate that period.”14 She was certainly correct when predicting that the festival had the possibility of uniting Prince George’s County residents, and the festival was wildly successful. In 2002, Bailey established the Prince George’s County Harlem Remembrance Foundation, a non-profit organization formed with the intention “to educate youth and the general public on the significance of the Harlem Renaissance Era by highlighting its art, poetry, dance and music and supporting the legacy of the Era by offering educational scholarships to students, hosting lecturers on the varied expressions of African-American art and funding local, state and national grassroots activities.”15 The festival celebrated its fifteenth anniversary earlier this year.

While serving as County Council Chair, Bailey extended her efforts internationally and, in 1997, entered Prince George’s County into a Sister City relationship with the Royal Bafokeng Nation in South Africa. In 2003, Bailey led a delegation of thirty-two Prince George’s County residents to South Africa which allowed these residents to connect with their African roots. Through this Sister City relationship, Bailey established scholarship funds at Bowie State University, Howard University, and Prince George’s Community College and also created economic ties to South Africa through import and export opportunities.16 The relationship benefits both Prince George’s County and the Royal Bafokeng Nation, showing how Bailey always strives to reach out and create change for all, even if they are an ocean away.

In 2011, Bailey pursued a different field of work and decided to take her talents to pen and paper. Bailey published In a Different Light: Reflections and Beauty of Wise Women of Color, a book that consists of interviews and photographs of more than one hundred Maryland women over the age of seventy. Inspired by a question from her young grandson about her age, Bailey realized that living until age seventy was a true blessing, but began to question the importance of living so long. Wondering how other Maryland women felt about turning seventy and about the lessons they have learned so far in their lives, Bailey began her project. She refers to the women interviewed in the book as “wisdom carriers” since “by the time you are 70, you should have gained some wisdom to share with someone else. That you’ve had some experiences that you carry within you, within your body, within your presence. Wisdom to share with other people. And that is what the book is doing.”17

Dorothy F. Bailey rightfully earns the title of “wisdom carrier,” and her many involvements and achievements in her community, along with her strong faith, attest to this. Bailey is still an active member of Kappa Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc. and of Hunter Memorial AME Church. She received an honorary doctorate from Riverside Baptist College and Seminary in 1991 and graduated from Leadership Greater Washington in 1998. She also has received over 200 awards and honors for her public service, including the Gladys Noon Spellman Award for Public Service, the NAACP Image Award for Political Activism, and the National Council of Negro Women’s Bethune Recognition Award.18

Bailey’s contributions to her community as reflected through her government, activist, and political work are absolutely countless. Still working in the Prince George’s County government, the positive results caused from Bailey’s work in Prince George’s County, the Washington metropolitan region, and Maryland will persevere for decades. Dorothy F. Bailey’s induction into the Women’s Hall of Fame is well-deserved due to the never-ending devotion, compassion, and care she channels into all she does, making her a truly one-of-a-kind woman.



1. Barbara Ruben, "Wise Women Reflect on Aging," The Beacon, March 1, 2012, accessed June 5, 2014, http://www.thebeaconnewspapers.com/select-stories/features/wise-women-reflect-aging. Return to text

2. Ibid. Return to text

3. Therese C. Yewell, Women of Achievement in Prince George’s County (Maryland: National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George's County Planning Board, 1994), 234. Return to text

4. Ibid. Return to text

5.  Eyobong Ita, "Dorothy Bailey Pursues a New Calling," Gazette.Net, July 13, 2000, accessed June 5, 2014, http://ww2.gazette.net/gazette_archive/2000/200028/porttowns/news/18455-1.html. Return to text

6. Robert E. Pierre, "Come November, A New Look for the County Council," The Washington Post, September 22, 1994. Return to text

7. Barbara Ruben, "Wise Women Reflect on Aging." Return to text

8. Jackie Spinner, "Major Development Decisions in Maryland; Council Vote Clears Hurdle for National Harbor," Washington Post, June 3, 1998. Return to text

9. Jackie Spinner, "Bailey Returns to Power; Council Leader Previews Agenda," The Washington Post, December 15, 1999. Return to text

10. Eyobong Ita, "Dorothy Bailey Pursues a New Calling." Return to text

11. Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 Nomination Packet pg. 1 Return to text

12. "About Kiamsha," Kiamsha Youth Empowerment Organization, accessed June 6, 2014, http://www.kiamshayouth.org/about. Return to text

13. Ibid. Return to text

14. Kasper Zeuthen, "Harlem Serenade; Prince George’s Festival Aims to Inspire, Educate," The Washington Post, April, 28 1999. Return to text

15. "About Us," The Prince George’s County Harlem Renaissance Festival, accessed June 6, 2014, http://pghrf.org/about-us/ Return to text

16. Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 Nomination Packet pgs. 8-9. Return to text

17. Barbara Ruben, "Wise Women Reflect on Aging." Return to text

18. Women’s Hall of Fame 2014 Nomination Packet pg. 1 Return to text


Biography written by 2014 summer intern Sharon Miyagawa.

   


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