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Mitchell, Parren J.

Mitchell, Parren J.

April 29, 1922

Parren James Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and became a member of Congress in 1970. From 1942 to 1946 he served as an army infantry officer and in 1950 he earned a bachelor's degree from Morgan State College. After suing the University of Maryland for admission to their school of graduate studies, he became the first black student to complete the program, earning a master's degree in sociology in 1952. After teaching for two years at Morgan State College, he worked for local government and community programs in such positions as probation officer, executive secretary to a commission overseeing enforcement of the new state law on public accommodations, and executive secretary of an antipoverty program. In 1968 he returned to teach at Morgan State.

Mitchell ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the Seventh Congressional District seat in 1968, but in 1970 he secured the nomination and won the election, becoming Maryland's first African-American congressman and the first elected since 1895 south of the Mason-Dixon line. He served in Congress until he retired in 1987.

In Congress, Mitchell was chair of the Small Business Committee and also held other committee assignments; he was whip-at-large and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was much concerned about empowering minority businesses. In 1976, for example, he secured a 10 percent set-aside in federal grants to local governing bodies for minority contractors. He also won an increase in the 1978 Small Business Administration budget. His interest in supporting minority economic development led him to found the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF) after he left Congress.

See also Politics in the United States


Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 18701991. New York: Amistad, 1992.

Gross, Delphine Ave. "Parren J. Mitchell." In Notable Black American Men, edited by Jessie Carney Smith. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1999.

"Parren J. Mitchell." In Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 42. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 2004.

robert l. johns (1996)
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