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 Interviewed in his room at Keswick, with a health care worker at his side, Parren Mitchell, 80, said that he had entrusted

all of his finances to his nephew Michael . . . Parren Mitchell, whose personal finances have never been previously

questioned, has long been viewed as a man of honor and integrity.



Nephew in charge, Parren Mitchell suffers money woes

Frail ex-congressman being sued by creditors, owes $100,000 to Keswick

By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Ivan Penn



Originally published Sun, May 31, 2002

Frail and slowed by strokes, former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell has spent the past three years at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park, leaving his financial affairs in the hands of his nephew, Michael B. Mitchell Sr.

Parren Mitchell's assets include a $60,000-a-year congressional pension and a trust that holds title to his West Baltimore home.

But Parren Mitchell's bills - including more than $100,000 owed to Keswick - have gone unpaid by Michael Mitchell, a former city councilman and former state senator who was disbarred for stealing from a client. Michael Mitchell, who has power of attorney for his uncle, has instead used his uncle's assets to help pay expenses related to a Pigtown bar he helps run and to buy a car that his uncle said he knew nothing about.

Interviewed in his room at Keswick, with a health care worker at his side, Parren Mitchell, 80, said that he had entrusted all of his finances to his nephew Michael and said he was certain his bills were being paid.

"He [Michael] takes care of everything for me," the former congressman said, adding that he trusts his nephew to look out for his interests.

But evidence indicates otherwise.

Despite his assets, Parren Mitchell has been hit with state and federal tax liens of $25,532.

Though Parren Mitchell said in an interview that he did not know that a car was bought in his name by his nephew Michael, the retired congressman is being sued by the General Motors Acceptance Corp for the $16,004.97 still owed on the car, including interest and attorney fees.

A board member at the nursing home where Parren Mitchell is a patient says nothing has been paid for the former congressman's care since he was admitted more than three years ago.

"We're very concerned about it because he was a very good congressman," said Keswick board member Lionel Fulz.

"He's very sick. We're doing everything we can to keep him comfortable," Fulz said. "There's no way we would put him out."

But as Mitchell's bill continues to grow, Keswick is feeling the pinch.

"We're a nonprofit institution," Fulz said. "Any unpaid bill takes away from our ability to help others."

Edmond B. Nolley Jr., chairman of Keswick's board, declined to comment about Mitchell's case because of patient confidentiality. But Nolley said no one is in danger of being evicted for overdue bills.

"Keswick would never discharge a resident for lack of payment," Nolley said.

Michael Mitchell declined repeated requests yesterday for an interview.

Differing lives

Though apparently close, Parren and Michael Mitchell have led sharply contrasting lives.

Parren Mitchell is a man of many firsts. He was the University of Maryland's first black graduate student, an honor he earned after suing the school to gain admission.

Parren Mitchell became the first African-American from Maryland elected to Congress, serving from 1971 to 1986. His victory made him the first African-American since 1898 elected to Congress from a state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

By the time he had retired from Congress in 1986, Parren Mitchell was looked to as an elder statesman, and he had amassed more than 3,000 awards and 14 honorary degrees.

Michael B. Mitchell Sr., 56, once considered a rising star in city and state politics, was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1975, when he was 29. By 1980 he was being touted as a possible mayoral candidate. But his political rise stopped short later that decade.

Michael Mitchell served less than a year in the Maryland Senate before he was sentenced in 1987 to federal prison. He was convicted on charges that he attempted to obstruct a federal investigation of the Wedtech Corp., a Bronx, N.Y.-based defense contractor.

Wedtech won $100 million in defense contracts under a minority set-aside program that Parren Mitchell had helped create. Though Michael Mitchell and his older brother, Clarence M. Mitchell III, collected $50,000 to halt the congressional probe, Parren Mitchell pressed ahead with the investigation, unaware of his nephews' involvement.

Michael Mitchell also was convicted in state court in 1988 of stealing $77,417 in insurance money from a 3-year-old son of a murder victim - money he has yet to repay. As part of his sentence in that case, Michael Mitchell was disbarred.

Parren Mitchell, whose personal finances have never been previously questioned, has long been viewed as a man of honor and integrity.

"I just don't see great leaders like I saw in him anymore," said state Del. Talmadge Branch, a special assistant to Parren Mitchell when he was in Congress.

Raymond V. Haysbert, former head of the Parks Sausage company, described the ex-congressman as "a hero and an icon to the total community."

Haysbert said he was surprised to hear that Parren Mitchell was having financial trouble.

"I'm just bewildered how this thing could happen," Haysbert said. "If there was no income, the whole community, including me, would chip in."

Parren Mitchell said he was unaware of any of the cases against him, adding that he has complete faith in his nephew's ability to handle his financial affairs and pay his bills. His primary income includes an annual congressional pension estimated by the National Taxpayers Union at $60,070.

State land records show that the financial relationship between the former congressman and his nephew dates back several years. In 1996, Parren Mitchell transferred the deed to his house at 828 N. Carrollton Ave. to a newly created trust. The trustees were Parren himself and Michael Mitchell.

By September 1999, the state filed a lien against the former congressman for a tax debt that totals $7,239.93, according to the state comptroller's office. And this year, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien totaling $18,292.43 for unpaid federal taxes dating to 1995.

GMAC filed suit this year. In the complaint, attorneys for the credit company state that the 1998 Buick was purchased on Parren Mitchell's behalf on April 20, 1999, with Michael Mitchell signing under a power of attorney.

Michael Mitchell also signed a loan document on Parren Mitchell's behalf that called for payments totaling $23,163 over a 60-month period.

According to court records, $13,413 remains due on the note.

In an April 4, 2001, letter to Parren Mitchell sent in care of his nephew, a GMAC official wrote that "the account is seriously past due."

"It has been brought to our attention," the letter continues, "that the above vehicle was in an accident on Dec. 12, 2000. We have inspected the vehicle ... and the damages are extensive. We have been advised that there was no insurance in effect at the time of the accident."

Included in the file is a copy of the accident report showing that Michael Mitchell was driving the car when it ran into the rear of a truck from South Carolina on Ritchie Highway at 2:43 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2000

Court records show that Michael Mitchell was charged on the same day with negligent driving but was later found not guilty.

Deeper in debt

And Michael Mitchell continues to sink deeper into debt, with tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid state and federal taxes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments for money due creditors, including mortgage payments on his home, which is facing foreclosure, according to court records.

Michael Mitchell's personal debts, some of them dating to before he went to prison, are substantially larger than those of his uncle. State tax liens total $73,312.56, and federal tax liens total $219,981.97 plus interest.

The debts have continued to pile up even though Michael Mitchell has been a full time employee of the Maryland Transportation Authority since July 1, 1999. He draws an annual salary of $40,575. He is listed as a coordinator for a program called Managing For Results.

He also runs a business on the side - a Pigtown bar, called the Short Stop - that neighbors want closed because of shootings and constant public disturbances, according to the city liquor board.

Sources say that Michael Mitchell has used his uncle's checking account to pay expenses related to the bar at 1415 Washington Blvd.

Though Michael Mitchell is not listed as an owner of the bar, his name appears several times in records at the city liquor board and other city agencies, including the Health Department, as a responsible party.

A handwritten notation on a document relating to the bar dated Dec. 13 at the health agency states, "Business is being bought by Michael Mitchell." Other city records list Michael Mitchell as a contact person or "business manager" for the bar. His name appears as a director in incorporation papers for Savannah Inc., one of the corporate names used by the west-side pub.

Under state liquor laws, convicted felons are not allowed to have an ownership interest in licensed establishments.

Sitting in his room at Keswick, Parren Mitchell expressed confidence Wednesday that his nephew is properly handling his financial affairs.

Although he said that he did not know about the car, Parren Mitchell said he was "glad" that his nephew had bought a car for him. He appeared surprised to hear that bills in his name have been going unpaid, but said he was feeling well and was well taken care of.

He sat quietly in his chair amid a tangle of tubes as one of the round-the-clock aides assigned to his care looked on. Fresh flowers brightened a nearby window sill.

"It's too nice out there to be inside," said Mitchell looking toward the window. He said he hadn't been able to get out recently, "but I hope to soon."

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Baltimore leaders setting up fund to help Parren Mitchell with debts

Bills, taxes rise to $140,000 as nephew runs finances

By Ivan Penn and Walter F. Roche Jr.


Originally published Sun June 1, 2002

Baltimore community leaders pledged yesterday to create a fund to help former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, who has fallen more than $140,000 in debt while his nephew Michael B. Mitchell has handled his finances.

"I am absolutely devastated by the news," said NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who succeeded Mitchell as the congressman representing Maryland's 7th District. "Without laying blame, for a lot of us the question is: What can we do to help? No one that has known or worked with him would want his name besmirched by debt."

Raymond V. Haysbert, a Baltimore businessman and former head of Parks Sausage, said he plans to meet with Mfume and form a committee to establish the fund for Parren Mitchell, a civil rights leader.

"The community is totally devastated at the plight of our congressman, and the immediate reaction is to form a committee to make sure he is protected," Haysbert said.

Parren Mitchell's finances are overseen by his nephew, Michael B. Mitchell, a former city councilman and state senator. An article in The Sun yesterday showed Michael Mitchell, who has power of attorney for his 80-year-old uncle, failed to pay at least $100,000 in bills at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park. Instead, Michael Mitchell used some of his uncle's money for personal expenses, including a car and a bar he helps run.

Parren Mitchell's debts total more than $140,000 and include unpaid state and federal taxes.

Parren Mitchell, Maryland's first African-American congressman, said he was unaware that he had any unpaid debts because his nephew "takes care of everything for me." Michael Mitchell's debts total hundreds of thousands of dollars. His control of his uncle's finances includes a $60,000-a-year congressional pension and a trust that holds title to Parren Mitchell's West Baltimore home.

Michael Mitchell declined repeated requests for an interview about his handling of his uncle's affairs. But in yesterday's edition of The Baltimore Afro-American, he criticized The Sun, saying reporters who spoke with his uncle should have sought the family's approval first. He did not discuss his uncle's unpaid bills or his handling of his uncle's accounts.

Clarence M. Mitchell III, a former state senator and Michael Mitchell's brother, said on the Larry Young Show on WOLB radio yesterday that "a full statement will be put together. We will respond appropriately."

The statement is expected to be made on the Larry Young Show early next week.

On the show yesterday, Clarence Mitchell called The Sun's article "scurrilous and inaccurate." He said his brother ensured that their uncle was well taken care of: "Parren is still alive today because of Michael.

"Parren Mitchell has been at Keswick since early 1999, when he was admitted after suffering several strokes. But a board member at the nonprofit nursing home said no payments had been made since he had been admitted.

Clarence Mitchell said on the radio show that the Mitchell family planned to meet with Keswick yesterday.

John Baldwin, an attorney for Keswick, said nursing home officials had no comment because of confidentiality requirements.

In addition to the bills at Keswick, Parren Mitchell has been sued by the General Motors Acceptance Corp. for $16,000 owed on a car that was bought in his name without his knowledge by Michael Mitchell. GMAC filed the lawsuit after Michael Mitchell had an accident in the car and failed to make the remaining payments.

Also, the state and federal governments have filed liens against Parren Mitchell for $25,532 in unpaid taxes. The liens were filed after he went into Keswick.

Michael Mitchell has long had financial troubles. He was disbarred for stealing from the 3-year-old son of a murder victim. He has state and federal tax liens of almost $300,000, and a foreclosure is filed against his home, among other debts that add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Source: The Baltimore Sun 2002

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Parren Mitchell Bio Chronology


1922  (April 29) --  Born in Baltimore to Clarence M. Mitchell Sr. and Elsie Davis Mitchell. His father was a waiter at the Rennert Hotel in downtown Baltimore.

1933 -- His brother Clarence returned home from Somerset County, where a black man had been lynched.

1940 --  Graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and then served in the Army during World War II, winning a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Italy.

1950  -- Earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morgan State College. Filed suit to compel the University of Maryland to enroll him as its first Black graduate student.

1952 --  Received M.A. degree in sociology from the University of Maryland and returned to teach at Morgan State.

1954 – 1957 -- Supervisor of probation work for the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City

1963 - 1965 -- Executive director of the Maryland Human Relations Commission in the Tawes administration,

1965 – 1968 -- Selected by Mayor McKeldin as executive director of the Baltimore Community Action Agency (CAA), the local arm of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.  The link between the militant civil rights groups and the city administration according to the Sun newspaper during three days and four nights of violence that was quelled after thousands of Army and National Guard troops were sent into the city.

Resigned  as head of the CAA in July 1968, complaining that Mayor D'Alesandro had assigned him a subordinate role in the anti-poverty effort, a step the mayor blamed on federal government dictates.

1968 -- Rejoined the Morgan State faculty and made his first run for Congress, a bid to unseat Samuel N. Friedel, who had represented the heavily Jewish and Democratic 7th District since 1953. In the Democratic primary, received 15,000 votes, falling 5,500 short of Mr. Friedel. Political experts were impressed.

1970 --  Defeated Mr. Friedel by 38 votes in the 40 percent black district as a third major candidate, a Jewish state senator, drained away votes from the popular incumbent. Became Maryland's first Black Congressman to the first of his eight terms in Congress. Reelected to seven succeeding Congresses from the 7th District through 1987.

1976  -- Attached to President Carter's $4 billion Public Works Bill an amendment that compelled state, county and municipal governments seeking federal grants to set aside 10 percent of the money to retain minority firms as contractors, subcontractors; $625 million (15%) going to legitimate minority firms.

1976 -- Introduced the legislation which became Public Law 95-507, that requires proposals from contractors to spell out their goals for awarding contracts to minority subcontractors. This law potentially provides access to billions of dollars for minority businesses. His amendment

1977 Appeared on the cover of Black Enterprise

1978  -- Ebony magazine feature listing Mitchell among the 100 most influential African-Americans

1980 -- Founded The Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. ("MBELDEF") and presently serves as Chairman of the Board.

1982 -- Amended the $71 billion Surface Transportation Assistance Act which required a 10 percent set-aside for disadvantaged businesses.

1984 -- Clarence Mitchell died

1985 – Announced, at age 63, he would not seek re-election for a ninth term in Congress.

1987  --  Nephews Clarence M. Mitchell III and Michael B. Mitchell were convicted in federal court in  of accepting $50,000 from Wedtech to obstruct an investigation of the company by the House Small Business Committee, which Representative Mitchell headed

1989 – Gave speech at a Baltimore teachers union observance of Dr. King's birthday and stated  "If you believe in fighting racism, you make a commitment for the rest of your life."

2007 (Monday, May 28) at the age of 85, passed away. On  5 June more than 1,000 people paid their last respects to the Congressman at the St. James' Episcopal Church in West Baltimore

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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Becoming American Under Fire

Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship

During the Civil War Era

By Christian G. Samito

In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. . . . For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race. For Irish Americans, soldiering in the Civil War was part of a larger affirmation of republican government and it forged a bond between their American citizenship and their Irish nationalism. The wartime experiences of Irish Americans helped bring about recognition of their full citizenship through naturalization and also caused the United States to pressure Britain to abandon its centuries-old policy of refusing to recognize the naturalization of British subjects abroad. / For Love of Liberty

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files: Case of Parren J Mitchell  Who Will Lead  The State of Black Journalism  Bio Sketch of Parren J Mitchell  Parren in Nursing Home  Who Will Lead