Tribute to Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr.
An honorary letter from Judge Alexander Williams Jr.:
Among the exciting and important events this past spring (2023) were two well attended tributes celebrating and honoring Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr.’s legacy. I was privileged to have attended both the commemorating event on May 26, 2023, held at the Municipal Center in Glenarden, Maryland, and a few weeks later at the celebratory gathering on June 17, 2023 at Bowie State University. Present and offering tributes were members of Congress, a former Governor, the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, State and Local Public Officials, members of the faith-based community, leaders of the business community, lobbyists, members of Maryland’s highest Court, community leaders, members of Senator Broadwater’s family, friends and others whose lives have been touched by the work, influence and leadership of Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr.
Senator Broadwater was reared in the legendary Chapel Oaks and Fairmount Heights area of Prince George’s County, Maryland. After marrying Lilian Prince and starting their family, Senator Broadwater moved to Glendarden, [the birthplace of Black political power in Prince George’s County] where he was elected as a Councilman for the Town of Glenarden. In 1974, Senator Broadwater became the first Black Elected State Senator in Prince Georges County, Maryland, and was among only a handful of Black Senators in the Maryland Senate. The Senator was also the first African American elected to the Maryland Senate outside of Baltimore City. As a successful businessman, Senator Broadwater was the premier bail bondsman in the county and also founded, owned, and operated the Ebony Inn Restaurant located in Fairmount Heights, Maryland. Senator Broadwater has long been considered the voice of the community as he fearlessly and effectively represented the citizens of his District as well as the greater community. As a freshman State Senator, he surprised so many with his appointment to the powerful Senate and Taxation Committee which positioned him to secure key appointments for county residents and enabled him to deliver resources and funds to and for communities which had been traditionally left out and ignored.
Often referred to as “Rocky” or as someone described him at the tribute as the “Marion Barry of Prince George’s County”, Senator Broadwater has been a political giant. While he was the only Black Senator out of eight in the Prince George’s County delegation when he was first elected to the Senate, he worked effectively with other legislators from around the state and across the aisle. While listening to and often supporting their issues and concerns, the Senator made it abundantly clear that in turn he would expect support for his concerns and requests of resources and jobs on behalf of the Black community in Prince George’s County and around the state. His reach and respect extended to Baltimore and beyond. It was breathtaking hearing legislators from Baltimore at the tributes express their appreciation for the support and advocacy of Senator Broadwater’s backing of statewide issues such as securing increased funding for the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Maryland. Senator Broadwater delivered for the citizens of Maryland in a mighty way. His annual picnic/birthday party in the community was always jammed packed. We feasted on ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, bake beans, water and soda/pop. It was open to everyone—but the Senator insisted on everyone attending to be or become a registered voter.
For years [and even now] many of those considering running for public office and desiring to follow his footsteps, would reach out to the Senator to sap any experience, wisdom or advice which the Senator always made the time to give to public office seekers. For those of us who have experienced some accomplishments in the County, we stand on his shoulders as he laid the groundwork. Because of his success, he paved the way for future public officials and community leaders.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the tributes, Senator Broadwater expressed how important it was to unify and work together. He let the attendees know that those electing him were the key to his success, and as he would often say in the opening words, we have come to know him by: “Folks" you elected me and provided me with the power to work for you and to get things done; and those in office must do your job.” The Senator also expressed his appreciation for these two tributes which he stated were special because he was receiving his flowers while still alive.
Though he has now passed, Senator Tommie Broadwater has left a powerful legacy and has delivered the torch to today’s leaders. While Prince George’s County has been blessed with many impressive and outstanding leaders, none has been greater than Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr.
We salute you, Senator. Rest on.
Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. (Retired)
United States District Judge for the District of Maryland
Former Elected State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County,
Founder and CEO of the Judge Alexander Williams, Jr, Center
for Education, Justice and Ethics