Helen Bentley dies at 92
BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- Helen Delich Bentley died Saturday in her Timonium home at the age of 92, according to a spokesperson.
Bentley had been moved to hospice care in June.
Bentley served 10 years in Congress from 1985 to 1995 representing Maryland's 2nd District, which included Baltimore County and part of Baltimore City.
Bentley started her career with The Baltimore Sun in the 1940's covering the Port of Baltimore and was appointed chair of the Federal Maritime Commission by President Richard Nixon in 1969. In 1994 Bentley ran for governor but was defeated in the Republican primary by Maryland State Del. Ellen Sauerbrey.
Governor Larry Hogan ordered flags to be flown at Half-Staff following Bentley's passing.
He released the following statement:
The First Lady and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, one of Maryland's most dedicated and respected leaders. She was a friend and I had come to value her wise counsel over the years. During a recent visit with her, I was inspired to see that the same spirit and determination that defined both her public and personal life was still very much present right up to the end.
Congresswoman Bentley worked with tenacity, energy, and passion on behalf of her constituents, making her a rare breed in politics and a role model to public servants across Maryland. She was a trailblazer for women in media and government, a longtime champion for manufacturing, maritime issues, and the Port of Baltimore which proudly bears her name as an everlasting tribute to her achievements.
Our deepest sympathies are with her family and friends as the First Lady and I, along with countless Marylanders, mourn the loss of a true leader for our great state. The legacy of Congresswoman Bentley will not soon be forgotten. We owe her a debt of gratitude for a lifetime of service on behalf of the state of Maryland. She will be missed.
Bentley was a strong advocate of the Port of Baltimore and in 2006, Bentley served as Chairman of the Port of Baltimore's Tricentennial Committee. Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. officially renamed Baltimore's port as The Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore that same year.
Port executive director James White released the following statement Saturday afternoon:
Today is a very sad day for the Port of Baltimore as well as the U.S. maritime industry. There has never been one person more identified with the Port of Baltimore than Helen Bentley. Throughout her long and distinguished life, Helen had a deep appreciation for the important role that seaports, and specifically the Port of Baltimore, play in our economy. There was no better advocate for the Port of Baltimore and the men and women who work there than Helen. She understood the value of a port as a creator of jobs and as an economic engine and worked much of her life in various capacities to impart that value.
Helen was truly one of a kind. She was in rare air as a female newspaper reporter in the 1940's who covered the male-dominated waterfronts. Soon after, she helped educate people to the waterfront life and the Port of Baltimore through a new medium---television. Her show, "The Port That Built a City and State", lasted 15 years. In 1969 Helen was appointed by President Nixon as the first woman chair of the Federal Maritime Commission and in 1984 she was elected to Congress for the first of five terms where she was a strong advocate for U.S. economic opportunities and manufacturing.
But her long-time devotion was always focused on her pride and joy, the Port of Baltimore, which of course today is named after her and is the only port in the U.S. named after a single person. Helen was a tremendous asset for us, one that other U.S. ports did not have. She contributed to our success in many ways. Whether that meant delivering unique historical knowledge to help us on current issues, helping to mediate labor matters, or working with U.S. presidents and elected officials to assist the maritime industry and the Port of Baltimore. As a congresswoman, Helen pushed strongly for a 50-foot deep channel that the Port of Baltimore has had since 1990. That deep channel is a major reason why the Port of Baltimore is well positioned today to accommodate the largest ships in the world and continue serving as one of Maryland's top economic generators.
Today we say a very deep thank you to a truly incredible woman, the First Lady of the Port of Baltimore, Helen Delich Bentley. We will never forget her.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake highlighted Bentley's passion and strong voice for Baltimore. Her full statement reads:
When I think of the great leaders that have championed for Baltimore, one of the first people I think of is Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley. Her passion for Baltimore was evident in her non-partisan efforts to foster strong business ties to usher in growth and prosperity for the City. Stoic, yet compassionate, she was a strong voice and advocate for Baltimore working in the best interest of the City. She is a stateswoman who exemplified strength and uncommon fortitude when faced with the sometime difficult task of getting the job done. She will be terribly missed, but her legacy will continue as an example of what leadership and compassion can accomplish when it is grounded in public service and a commitment to excellence.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn issued the following statement:
This is a tremendous loss for the Port of Baltimore and the State of Maryland. I am so fortunate to have developed a friendship with Helen. What she accomplished in her long life is nothing short of amazing. Helen spent her life breaking glass ceilings. Even in her later years, she never missed an opportunity to speak loudly for the Port. Thank you Helen for everything you did and for all your work to help make the Port of Baltimore one of the busiest ports in the country.
Congressman Elijah Cummings referred to Bentley as a mentor, a close friend and a true humanitarian. His full statement reads:
I send my thoughts and prayers to Helen's family and friends as they mourn her passing.
I have known Helen Bentley for over 25 years. Helen was more than a great congresswoman, she was my mentor and close friend. Under her leadership, the port of Baltimore remained one of the best in the world, so when I became Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, she was the first person I turned to for guidance. She was a tremendous resource and selflessly assisted me in getting acclimated to the new role.
She served on the board of the Maritime Industries Academy High School with me for nearly a decade, where she consistently demonstrated her commitment to ensuring that inner-city students received a meaningful education.
I visited Helen several weeks ago and her last words to me were, 'Keep fighting for our children.' I will miss my friend dearly. I will miss her inspirational words and her guidance. Maryland and the nation have lost a true humanitarian.