Marjorie Ann Jennings
On July 20, 1979, Marjorie Ann Jennings was the first African American female named to the Maryland Parole Commission. She was acting commission chair in the last half of 1985. She worked as a parole and probation officer in the 1960s, before her appointment as a commissioner.
Born in Baltimore on December 14, 1941, and reared in Annapolis on Lafayette Avenue, Marjorie Ann Jennings was the daughter of Mabel Jennings, a housekeeper, and her husband, Robert Jennings, a funeral home worker. She attended Stanton Elementary School in Annapolis. After returning to Baltimore in the 1950s, she graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and lived on Roberts Street in West Baltimore.
Marjorie was a graduate of Morgan State University and sang alto in the school’s choir. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She studied social work and initially had a post with the YWCA in Baltimore. She became a parole and probation officer in 1966 and worked out of the Maryland State Office Building. “I was impressed at the moment I first spoke to her. She was the right person for the right job,” said Jasper Clay, who hired her more than 55 years ago. “She was a strong woman and a great trainer. She was stern in the way she dealt with the staff. She held people accountable.”
Jennings went on to serve as a liaison to a Baltimore mayor and supervised one of her agency’s offices. In 1970, she joined what was then the Maryland Parole Board and rose to become executive assistant to Henry Turner, the board’s former chair. Gordon C. Kamka, then the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services during the administration of Governor Harry Hughes, named her the first female commissioner on the board from a group of over twenty applicants. In a Sun interview at the time of her appointment, she said: “I felt a woman should be on the commission. I felt I had the necessary credentials and I felt I was fully qualified. So, I applied.”
“She trained me as a commissioner,” said Patricia Cushwa, who formerly served on the Maryland state board and is now the acting chair of the U.S. Parole Commission. “Marjorie was a force to be reckoned with and was a walking encyclopedia on Maryland law. You got away with nothing with her. She would be passing along the hall, saying, “Cushwa, what were you thinking?” Cushwa, a former state senator, also said: “She made us look at every aspect of a file, examine risk assessment and look at the effect on the public. She was tough professionally and personally, and a highly cultured and literate person.” “She paved the way for the rest of us who came along. In the day when there were not many cracks in that glass ceiling, Marjorie put a big dent in it — not just in Maryland but across the U.S. There were not many women on parole boards,” Cushwa said. “A public defender told me although they fought for their client, Marjorie’s decisions really could not be disagreed with. She was that good and that fair. There were no favorites with Margie.”
Her husband, Leonard Boone, predeceased her death which occurred on December 25, 2021, at Sinai Hospital.