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Who is Cora L. Rice?

Civic Activist, 1926-1991

When she died in 1991, Cora left a legacy of battles won, wrongs righted, and injustices overcome. However, she was never content to bask in the glow of her achievements and always felt that she had not done enough. There was always another campaign to wage. Cora devoted her life to battling bigotry, racism, and discrimination in Prince George's County. Known for her confrontational stance that earned her as many foes as friends, she was also respected for her strength of purpose, values, and determination to succeed. These qualities and her accomplishments made her one of the most influential women in county history.

Born in Edenton, North Carolina, Cora was raised by parents who instilled a strong sense of family, deep spiritual convictions, and the importance of education. As an African American living in the rural South in the 1930s, she was also exposed to prejudice and segregation. These childhood memories had a tremendous influence on her chosen mission in life.

Cora's family moved to Washington, D.C., where better economic and educational opportunities promised a better life. Cora graduated from Cardoza High School and returned to North Carolina to attend Elizabeth City Teacher's College. She moved to New York City, where she attended New York University. After receiving a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1955, she settled in Prince George's County and worked as a telephone communications manager. She later established her own business-a telephone answering service, one of the first African-American-owned businesses in the county.

Prince George's County in the mid-1950s was predominantly white, and segregated schools, public places, communities, and jobs were divided along racial lines. Cora became a community leader who sought to make her adopted home of Prince George's County a place where African American citizens were not discriminated against. She fought for equal educational opportunities, fair housing policies, an end to job discrimination, and full participation in the political system.

Driven by her passion for justice and equality, Cora was a key figure in civil rights groups, including the United Black Fund, Citizens for Human Rights, United Communities Against Poverty, and Combined Communities in Action. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Selma, Alabama, and she joined the Prince George's County Chapter of the NAACP, serving three terms as president. She played a central role in the NAACP's suit against the county's public school system, leading to desegregation and busing.

Deeply committed to the welfare of African American children, Cora often took in homeless youngsters. She was lovingly called "Mom Rice" by the many children-including her own- whom she assisted, supported, and encouraged over the years. She also sought better relations between police and young people. In 1984, at her urging, Prince George's County Police Department agreed to co-sponsor an annual Christmas party for deserving children. The event continues to be a tremendous annual success.

A testament to her many accomplishments is the more than two hundred commendations and awards she received. Two of which she was especially proud were an Outstanding Leadership Award from President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the Hester V. King Award for Community Service from the Prince George's County Chapter of the NAACP in 1989.

Cora never believed that her work was done. While savoring her most recent victory she would be organizing her troops for the next battle.