April 29, 1922 Parren James Mitchell, the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland, was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mitchell served as an officer in the 92nd Infantry Division during World War II and earned the Purple Heart. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University in 1950 and that year successfully sued the then segregated University of Maryland for admission to graduate school. In 1952, he became the first African American to earn a master’s degree from that school.
In 1970, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and during his 16 year career was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and fought for affirmative action legislation. As Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Mitchell attached an amendment to a public works bill that required state and local governments seeking federal grants to set aside 10% of the funds for minority contractors and subcontractors.
In 1986 Mitchell retired from Congress and served as chairman of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund until the late 1990s. Mitchell died on May 28, 2007.