2017-03-08 / Front Page

Former Borough President Helen Marshall

BY JOHN TOSCANO


Marhall during a State of the Borough address at Queens College. 
Photo Vinny DuPre Marhall during a State of the Borough address at Queens College. Photo Vinny DuPre Former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, a ground-breaking African American political and community activist in Queens for about 50 years in the Corona-East Elmhurst area, passed away last Friday at her retirement home in California at the age of 87.

Her husband, Donald, had predeceased her in January, according to a published report, and both are survived by a son, Donald Jr., and a daughter, Agnes Marie.

Mrs. Marshall ended her long public and political career in 2013, after serving three 4- year terms as Queens borough president, and was succeeded by Melinda Katz, who eulogized her predecessor, saying:

“Helen fought tenaciously to improve our children’s schools, to address seemingly intractable quality-of-life issues, and to secure a fair share of city resources for Queens.”

Katz had previously honored Marshall by building and dedicating a cultural center at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens in Marshall’s name.

Also paying tribute to Marshall was City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who released a statement saying, “for more than three decades, at many levels of government, she was an unrelenting advocate for her community. She fought for kids, for libraries and for schools – and she delivered results.”

Marshall, a native New Yorker, attended New York City schools, graduating from Queens College, and was a school teacher for 8 years. At this stage of her life, she served in numerous local organizations, including Community Board 3 for 13 years; she was a founder of the Langston Hughes Library in Corona and the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation.

From her participation on these local boards, she gradually became active in the political activities in Corona and East Elmhurst. She eventually became a Democratic district leader in 1974, then a Democratic National Committee Member of Queens County.

Marshall’s next upward move into politics was getting elected to the state Assembly, where she served for several years, and was then elected to the City Council of New York City, where she also served for several terms.

Marshall’s combined Assembly and City Council service eventually added up to 20 years.

But her greater impact in politics occurred in 2002 when she ran for, and was elected the Queens borough president, where she eventually served three 4- year terms. After that came her retirement from politics in 2013, and the Marshalls then moved to California.

Helen Marshall will always be remembered as a friendly, smiling, helpful person. This reporter knew her first-hand as Queens borough president, and previous to that at City Hall, over a long period, and she was always an affable, approachable person. God bless her.

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