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Remembering My Grandfather

Last week, I wrote about my grandmother who came to Baltimore in 1941 and became a Maryland state social worker. This week, I want to talk about her husband and my grandfather, Edward J. Todd, who worked as a juvenile probation officer and supervisor for more than 27 years here in Maryland.

My grandfather moved with my grandmother to Baltimore from Petersburg, Virginia, and began working on the B&O railroad. Despite its myriad obstacles, Maryland was a place of opportunity for my grandparents. He was a member of only the third or fourth class at the law school that permitted black students after segregation ended. At the time, the dean of the Law School said he didn’t want night students or negro students.

My grandfather was both.

After a year of classes at the University of Maryland School of Law, and a tuition of just $200, he qualified to become a probation officer and went to work for his community.

His job as a probation officer offered the second union job in their household. It helped give them the opportunity to move out of McCulloh Homes Public Housing and, ultimately, their pensions helped pay my college tuition.

But almost more importantly, his role as a probation officer is where he really came into his own serving as a mentor in the community. I remember spending summers at my grandparents’ house and hearing my grandfather tell young men in the neighborhood that if they had a problem or needed help, to wait for him on our front steps so they could sort it out when he got home from work. He wanted to be there for those young men because he didn’t want to see them in his office at work, having been on the wrong side of the law.

He embodied what it meant to work day in and day out to make his community better in all aspects of his life. And that’s one of the lessons that he passed on to me. I owe it to both my grandmother and my grandfather for instilling in me the values that helped inspire me to pursue a life of service.