Smith: Dr. Kieffer Mitchell, Sr. Was An Activist, Too

Aug 20, 2015

As a child, Dr. Keiffer Mitchell watched as his famous father – Clarence Mitchell, Jr. – confronted opponents of school desegregation.

A fourth grader, when the famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision came down, he never forgot the image of his father’s witness for equality in America – and for his son.

As a recent graduate of Lincoln University, his father – Clarence Mitchell Jr. -- got a job reporting for the Afro American newspaper. One of his first assignments was the lynching of George Armwood in 1933.

Mitchell’s coverage was both brave and journalistically adept.  A day after Armwood was hanged, Mitchell walked the streets of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore.

Mitchell wrote: "There is no adequate description of the mute evidence of gloating on the part of whites gathered to watch the effect upon our people."

Dr. Mitchell, who died Monday, knew that his father had changed his own life so he could change America. Clarence Mitchell wanted to be a doctor. Princess Anne changed that. He became a life-long campaigner for racial justice.

His son could become a physician, in part, because his father and his uncle – Congressman Parren Mitchell -- had opened the world to black professionals, including physicians.

Dr. Keiffer Mitchell chose to practice medicine on Druid Hill Avenue in the middle of a poor black neighborhood.  He might have located elsewhere and made more money. He quite deliberately chose not to do that. In this, too, he was honoring his father and his father’s values.

In the same vein, he was intensely proud of his son, Keiffer, Jr., formerly a member of the Baltimore City Council and the Maryland House of Delegates.

In his way, Dr. Mitchell, too, was an activist.