Lor­raine Phillips

‘First lady of City Hall’ aided Bal­ti­more con­stituents and was a guid­ing in­flu­ence for elected of­fi­cials

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

Lor­raine Phillips, who wit­nessed 40 years of Bal­ti­more po­lit­i­cal his­tory from the in­side City Hall, died of heart dis­ease Satur­day at the Levin­dale He­brew Geri­atric Cen­ter & Hospi­tal.

The for­mer Bolton Hill and Cross Keys res­i­dent was 94.

“Lor­raine was the first lady of City Hall,” said for­mer City Coun­cil mem­ber Joseph J. DiBlasi. “She could be grand­mother, mother, aunt or sis­ter to you.

“She taught us that the con­stituents come first,” he said. “As an in­di­vid­ual, she was hum­ble, mod­est, loyal and per­sis­tent.”

Born Lor­raine Horne in Bal­ti­more and raised in the Oliver neigh­bor­hood, she was the daugh­ter of Alexan­der Horne, a den­tal tech­ni­cian, and Mar­guerite Mihm.

She at­tended the old St. Paul’s School in the city, and earned a sec­re­tar­ial di­ploma from its com­mer­cial school, which has long been closed.

As a young woman she worked for at­tor­ney Eli Frank and was later a med­i­cal sec­re­tary.

She then joined the staff of a liquor dis­trib­u­tor. Friends re­called that one of her du­ties was to visit lo­cal tav­ern own­ers incog­nito and talk up the brands her em­ployer car­ried.

She worked briefly for the Bal­ti­more City Health Depart­ment. She was re­cruited by then- City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer, who talked her into join­ing the staff of the City Coun­cil in 1967.

“Schae­fer, in twist­ing my mother’s arm to take the job, said, ‘Do you know who ap­proves these jobs?’ ” said her son, Michael Rogich of Tierra Verde, Fla.

She ini­tially worked for coun­cil mem­bers Alexan­der Stark, Jacob Edelman and Reuben Caplan, and later served in of­fices for the old 6th Dis­trict of South Bal­ti­more and South­west Bal­ti­more.

She be­came one of City Hall’s best­known per­son­al­i­ties. She schooled newly elected coun­cil mem­bers in the work­ings of city govern­ment, its de­part­ments and neigh­bor­hoods.

“It started as a job for Lor­raine, but she made it into her call­ing, her mis­sion. She lent a sym­pa­thetic ear,” said Timothy D. Mur­phy, a Mary­land Dis­trict Court judge and for­mer City Coun­cil mem­ber. “She was the oral his­to­rian of City Hall too, and she was its in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory.”

“She was meant to have that job. She sparkled. Peo­ple trusted her,” said Ge­orge John­ston, an at­tor­ney who was a col­lege in­tern at City Hall from 1969 to 1970.

“She was a re­mark­able per­son. She gen­uinely cared about peo­ple, and she was in a po­si­tion to help them,” said Mr. John­ston. “As­sist­ing oth­ers was a core value to Lor­raine. And she did it in a fun way. Peo­ple were nat­u­rally drawn to her; it didn’t hurt that she was also very at­trac­tive.”

In1973, she was quoted in The Bal­ti­more Sun com­ment­ing on the case of Rose Mary Woods, the sec­re­tary who served Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon and who said she had mis­tak­enly erased cru­cial por­tions of an au­dio tape in­volved in the Water­gate case.

“I think it’s an in­sult to pro­fes­sional sec­re­taries,” Mrs. Phillips said of the era­sure. “She’s not like some­body right out of school. She’s an ex­pe­ri­enced sec­re­tary,”

Later that year, she at­tended the Mayor’s Ball for the Arts — which was staged at the Pim­lico Race Course club­house be­cause the Hil­ton Ho­tel, where it had been planned, was not ready.

“Oh, this is much bet­ter than the Hil­ton,” said she of the event’s be­ing held at Pim­lico. “That’s a ball­room and this a race­track. This is Bal­ti­more.”

In 1976 she was work­ing at tem­po­rary City Hall of­fices on Calvert Street when Charles A. Hop­kins en­tered the build­ing and killed 6th Dis­trict coun­cil mem­ber Do­minic Leone, whom she served. Fam­ily mem­bers said she es­caped the at­tack be­cause she was out of the build­ing at the time.

Ge­orge Della Jr., a for­mer state sen­a­tor and City Coun­cil mem­ber, said Mrs. Phillips im­mersed her­self in the ma­chin­ery of city govern­ment and had a deep knowl­edge of its agen­cies.

“There was Lor­raine, in the days be­fore an­swer­ing ma­chines and emails. She would pick up the phone and say, ‘Can I help you?’ ” said Mr. Della. “She loved what she did be­cause she was in a po­si­tion to help peo­ple.

“Lor­raine’s gift was that she was a friendly, wel­com­ing per­son and had the skills to work with peo­ple from all walks of life,” he said. “When we would be talk­ing to con­stituents or at a com­mu­nity meet­ing, we would say, ‘Call Miss Phillips, she’ll take care of it.’ And she would.”

Her son, Michael Rogich, re­called that his mother kept a vo­lu­mi­nous address and phone book.

“She seemed to know ev­ery­body,” he said.

Mrs. Phillips, who lived in Bolton Hill on Park Av­enue, trimmed her hours at City Hall to part-time when she ap­proached age 80. She stopped work­ing about 10 years ago.

Still, she en­ter­tained friends and main­tained ties to her fel­low staff mem­bers.

“She was an an­gel, a Chris­tian woman and a sec­ond mother,” said City Coun­cil mem­ber Edward L. Reisinger III, who rep­re­sents the 10th Dis­trict. “She brought out the best in ev­ery­body. Af­ter a tough day, she could calm me down. She was so ex­pe­ri­enced, some­times I thought she was the City Coun­cil mem­ber.” Memo­rial ser­vices are pri­vate. In ad­di­tion to her son, sur­vivors in­clude a sis­ter, Jean Bishop of Troy, Mich. Her hus­band, Ralph Phillips, died in 1990. Her mar­riage to Michael Rogich ended in di­vorce. Lor­raine Phillips was re­cruited to the City Coun­cil staff by Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer.

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