- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

Mary McClenahan, 87, civic leader

RICHMOND (AP) — Mary Tyler Freeman Cheek McClenahan, civic leader and daughter of the late Southern historian Douglas Southall Freeman, died Jan. 15 at her home. She was 87.

Mrs. McClenahan’s father was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of George Washington and Gen. Robert E. Lee and the longtime editor of the Richmond News Leader.

She also was the widow of Leslie Cheek Jr., director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Mrs. McClenahan considered herself raised in privilege and once called civic work the means by which the fortunate should “express their gratitude.”

Admirers knew Mrs. McClenahan as a leader in bridging gaps between black and white Richmonders and between the city’s past and future.

In 1981, she founded the Richmond Urban Forum, an organization that brought together white and black community leaders.

“Once you see with a clearer perspective, it’s ridiculous to move in a society that does not accept the obvious fact that we are all equal in the sight of God,” she in a 1986 interview.

Mrs. McClenahan was an advocate of reproductive rights, serving as president of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and president of the local chapter. She devoted her later years to urban redevelopment, co-founding the Richmond Better Housing Coalition in 1988.

She also was a board member of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association.

Though a product of conservative Richmond, Mrs. McClenahan supported Democratic candidates for state office. In 1985, she endorsed Mary Sue Terry, the first woman elected attorney general in Virginia.

Mrs. McClenahan’s survivors include her second husband, Dr. John Lorimer McClenahan of Richmond; two sons, a daughter and two stepchildren.

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