State Rep. MaryAnn Black, a former Durham County commissioner and a Duke University Health System leader who for many years helped build strong connections between the health system and the local community, died March 25. She was 76.
Black served as associate vice president for community relations for the health system. In that role, she worked to establish partnerships with the city, the county and other agencies and organizations to benefit every citizen regardless of race, background or financial status.
“It is difficult to quantify MaryAnn’s significant contributions to our organization and to our community,” said Dr. Eugene Washington, chancellor for health affairs at Duke and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. “The legacy she built as a social worker, a leader and community servant will long enhance our community.”
“MaryAnn was known for the extraordinary relationships she built through dialogue, compromise, and steady leadership,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. “We are so very grateful for MaryAnn’s many years of service to Duke and to the Durham community. She was a true pillar of the community, and her strength and compassion will be greatly missed.”
Black joined the health system in 2002 as director for community affairs. She already had a reputation both as a political leader and as a social worker for being a leading advocate for health and human services programs. She was later promoted to associate vice president.
At Duke, she initiated numerous efforts that enhanced the health system’s relationship with local government, community leaders, the faith communities and other groups.
Black was first elected to the Durham County Commissioners in 1990 and served until 2002. She chaired the board for six years during her tenure. She was appointed by Gov. Cooper to the state House in 2017, and was not seeking re-election this year.
As a legislator, both at the county and state level, Black had a solid reputation for her strong work ethic and ability to reach out to community leaders across political lines.
“She was an inspiration and icon, in my opinion,” said Doug Heron, associate vice president for state relations at Duke. “I used to stop by her legislative office in Raleigh and we’d spend an hour just talking about everything -- politics, life, Duke and Durham -- her love for all. She never told me she didn’t have time to catch up, and never once did she fail to read background materials or research a bill -- she was one of the most prepared legislators I’ve ever worked with in 15 plus years of lobbying in North Carolina.”
Other legislators joined in praising Black.
“MaryAnn Black was a strong, compassionate leader who spent her life making North Carolinians healthier and better educated,” said NC Gov. Roy Cooper, in a twitter statement Thursday. “She will be sorely missed by all of us who knew her and called her a friend.”
Democratic 1st District Congressman G.K. Butterfield said in a statement Thursday that Black served "with immense passion, tireless dedication and endless grace."
"MaryAnn Black was known throughout the city of Durham and the state of North Carolina for breaking barriers, setting high standards and fighting for the needs of the Durham community," Butterfield said. "With over 30 years of service prior to her political career, MaryAnn’s soul of a social worker poured out into everything she touched."
Her civic roles included as president of the Durham Downtown Rotary, and she was the first female chair of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Board.
In addition, Black worked on the boards of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission and Durham Technical Community College’s Board of Trustees.
She also spent more than 30 years as a clinical social worker, specializing in psychotherapy with children and their families. The State of North Carolina and National Association of Social Workers named her she was named Social Worker of the Year in 1994.
Black has received numerous awards for work in the community during her career. Her most recent awards include being honored by the Durham Chapter of Charms 2014, the Samuel DuBois Cook Society 2008, Distinguished Service Award, the Family and Children’s Services 2007, Community Service Award 2006, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Circle of Influence Diversity Award 2005, Women-In-Action Elna B. Spaulding Founder’s Award, and 2005 Triangle Business Journal Top 25 Outstanding Women in Business.
Black was buried Friday morning in a private ceremony. Survivors included her son Jonathan Black. Gov. Cooper asked for all state flags be lowered across North Carolina in her honor.