Parren J. Mitchell
Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBELDEF)
Championing the causes of the black and poor comes naturally to Parren J. Mitchell. In 1950, Mitchell filed suit to compel the University of Maryland to enroll him as its first black graduate student. There, he completed his master’s degree in sociology and was admitted to the school’s honor society. After receiving his master’s degree, Mitchell returned to teach at his alma mater, Morgan State University.
As executive director of Baltimore’s anti-poverty program in the late 60s, Mitchell lobbied Washington for his agency’s programs. Also during the l960s, he served as executive secretary for the Maryland Human Relations Commission and played the pivotal role in the enactment and implementation of Maryland’s statewide Public Accommodations Law.
In 1970, he was elected Maryland’s first black Congressman.
In 1976, Mitchell 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.
He also introduced the legislation, which, in 1976, became Public Law 95-507, which 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 to the $71 billion Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 required a 10 percent set-aside for disadvantaged businesses.
He served as: Whip-At-Large; Senior Member of the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, chairman of its Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy; chairman of the House Small Business Committee, chairman of its Task Force on Minority Enterprise; chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Minority Enterprise and Economic Development of the Congressional Black Caucus; a member of the Joint Economic Committee; and on the Presidential Commission on the National Agenda for the Eighties.
In 1980, he founded The Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBELDEF) and presently serves as chairman of the board.
He holds a total of 14 honorary degrees — five Doctor of Humane Letters; five Doctor of Law; and four Doctor of Social Sciences.
National and local consumer groups, civil rights groups, business and economic groups, fraternities, sororities, religious groups and educational organizations have presented more than 3000 awards to Mr. Mitchell. He has received awards from such diverse groups as The National Alliance of Black Educators; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Morehouse College Alumni; the Joint Center for Political Studies; the Greater New Haven (Connecticut) Business and Professional Association; the Minority Contractors of Dayton, Ohio, the Alaska Black Caucus; and the Consumer Federation of America.
It has been said of him, “Parren’s emotions are those of a Patrick Henry . . . he didn’t say give me liberty later . . . Parren is one of God’s angry men.”