Chessie M. Granger Brailey

Chessie M. Granger Brailey (Baltimore Sun / December 24, 2011)

Chessie M. Brailey, a civil rights activist who had been married to former state legislator F. Troy Brailey, died Dec.16 from complications of dementia at her daughter's Harbor Court condominium.

The former longtime Easterwood Park resident was 94.

"Chessie had a wonderful spirit and was serious about the community and the advancement of African-Americans. She provided tremendous support for her husband," said the Rev. James L. Carter, pastor of East North Avenue's Ark Church and a longtime friend.

"She also projected what she believed in and responded to it," said Mr. Carter. "She was a wonderful lady with a kind and gentle spirit. I always thought her longevity had something to do with her love of humanity."

The daughter of a Domino Sugar worker and a housekeeper, Chessie M. Granger was born in Columbia, Ala., and in the 1920s settled into a home in South Baltimore, across the street from Leadenhall Baptist Church.

She graduated in 1936 from Frederick Douglass High School, and the next year, married F. Troy Brailey, who was working as a Pullman sleeping car porter.

In the early years of her marriage, Mrs. Brailey stayed home to raise the couple's two children.

When her children were older, she studied cosmetology at the Madam C.J. Walker Beauty School and worked in several salons before she opened the Hollywood Beauty Salon in West Baltimore in the early 1950s.

She later worked as a state beauty inspector making sure that beauty salons had up-to-date licenses and that they were in compliance with other regulations.

Mrs. Brailey's civil rights activism coincided with her husband's.

In 1941, he had been a leader in the planned march on Washington that was called off after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission.

He also had worked with A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, as a union organizer, and an adviser to various civil rights groups that were organizing sit-ins at restaurants where they had been refused service.

In 1963, Mr. Brailey was state chairman for the August March on Washington, which featured the Rev. Martin Luther King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech.

He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1966, where he served until defeating the late Verda F. Welcome, Maryland's first black female senator, for the 40th District Senate seat in 1982.

Throughout his political and civil rights activism, Mrs. Brailey was at her husband's side and worked as an aide to him while he served in the House and Senate.

"Chessie and her husband were always in the same boat and she was always right along there with him," said John B. Ferron, a longtime friend who retired in 1996 as director of the Community Relations Commission.

"I must say with her death, Baltimore, Maryland and the world has lost a great person," said Mr. Ferron. "Never did I see her angry. She was always pleasant and a quiet behind-the-scenes activist. She never wanted any publicity."

Mr. Ferron said the Braileys were devoid of any "political arrogance."

"Senator Brailey was a giant who walked with kings, queens and diplomats but he and his wife remained just regular people," said Mr. Ferron. "They sought no particular status and never let popularity affect them. They were just a loving family and emitted to humanity the love they had for each other."

Mr. Brailey died in 1996.