Parren James Mitchell
U.S. House of Representatives (D)
7th Congressional District of Maryland (1971-1987)
Born on April 29, 1922, Parren James Mitchell passed away on Monday, May 28, 2007, at the age of 85. Proclaimed as the “Inspiration of the National Black Chamber of Commerce” and affectionately known as the “Godfather of Minority Business Enterprise,” Parren James Mitchell, the Congressman and the man, was a gentle giant whose efforts toppled barriers, which had prevented or dissuaded minority-owned businesses from competing for government and private-sector contracts. His protective legislation paved the way for an influx of billions of dollars into an eager, qualified entrepreneurial community.
Throughout his life, Congressman Mitchell continued to lead by example and forged his legacy by always defending and advocating for causes he so strongly believed in. Congressman Mitchell:
* was elected in 1970 as Maryland’s first African American Congressman in the House of Representatives and served eight terms in the seat now occupied by Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who was quoted by the Associated Press saying, “He [Mitchell] was a true servant leader, never concerning himself about fame or fortune but, rather, devoting himself entirely to uplifting the people he represented”;
* was forced to sue the then segregated University of Maryland for admission into the graduate school - he won and subsequently received his master’s degree;
* served as Professor of Sociology and Assistant Director of the Urban Studies Institute at Morgan State College;
* a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus;
* received the Purple Heart for his service as Officer with the Army’s 92nd Infantry Division during World War II;
* founded Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., a non-profit, public interest law firm and membership advocacy organization; and
* is the benefactor of The Parren J. Mitchell Foundation (www.mitchellfoundation.org).
In 1995, Parren was quoted as saying that he sensed a new spirit among African American entrepreneurs. “They are cognizant of the hostility facing them, but they also have a new sense of power and success, which makes this a very exciting time.”
Parren J. Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland and received his bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University and his master’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He was the brother of the late Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., who was the head of the NAACP’s Washington office and was one of Lyndon Johnson’s chief advisors in the Civil Rights Movement.