By TimesLedger Staff
Helen Marshall, who served as Queens borough president for 12 years after many nearly two decades as a Democratic lawmaker at the city and state levels, died Saturday in California. She was 87.
A former teacher, she spent her years in public office with a sharp focus on education and expanding library services in Queens.
Marshall was the first African-American borough president of Queens and the second woman to occupy the post in the most ethnically diverse county in the country.
“Helen Marshall was a larger-than-life figure in the civic life of Queens and the State of New York,” said Melinda Katz, who succeeded Marshall as the borough president.
“During her decades in public life, 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.
Born in the Bronx on Sept. 30, 1929, she was educated at Queens College and taught until she became the first director of the Langston Hughes Library in Corona.
She was a state Assemblywoman from 1983 until 1991, then ran for a seat in the City Council, where she served from 1992 to 2001.
Marshall, who was known as simply Helen to her colleagues and constituents, directed the affairs of Queens County from Borough Hall for three consecutive terms from 2002 to 2014.
“Helen was a trailblazer who inspired many to pursue public service. She was a deeply compassionate person who cared tremendously about the well- being of her fellow Queens residents,” Katz said in a statement.
Marshall is survived by her two children, Donald Jr. and Agnes Marie. Her husband, Donald, died recently.