Asked to describe the most important aspects of Marjorie Hobart’s political/civic life, former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple responded by taking a quick trip across the pond.
“The British phrase comes to mind: ‘Keep calm and carry on,’” Whipple said on Sept. 17 as Hobart (and Cragg Hines) were inducted into the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s “Distinguished Democrats” pantheon.
“A calm, strong voice, being involved but never loud,” Whipple said of Hobart’s activism at the local and state levels, which dates back more than a half-century.
“Her impact has reverberated across the community,” Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Steve Baker said during the ceremony, held in Crystal City.
A public-school librarian who later became the longtime executive director of the Arlington Education Association, Hobart is the epitome of “an advocate’s advocate,” said Sen. Barbara Favola, who before succeeding Whipple in the upper house of the legislature served on the Arlington County Board, where Hobart offered frequent testimony.
“She is such a big-picture thinker [with a] commitment to fairness and just causes,” Favola said, noting that Hobart’s effort was to “always find a goal that everybody could agree on, everybody could come to the table on.”
“Thousands of students in this county are better off” for her efforts, Favola said.
Karen Darner, later a member of the House of Delegates, came to Arlington as a public-school teacher, and relied on Hobart’s wisdom when it came to personnel issues in the school system.
“She was our – we called her lovingly – ‘union goon,’” Darner said. “It was a term of endearment.”
Whipple in the mid-1970s was appointed to the School Board, and said Hobart was “practically the first fixture in my [political] life . . . doing what needed to be done to speak up for teachers.”
Until 1977, Arlington had engaged in collective bargaining with its local-government and public-school employees. Toward the end of his final term in office, Democrat-turned-Republican Gov. Mills Godwin declared that such collective bargaining was illegal. Ultimately, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Godwin.
But neither the Arlington Education Association nor Hobart went away.
“Every single School Board meeting, Marjorie was there,” Darner said. “She took notes and she knitted.”
(Collective bargaining at the local-government level is now back in optional form, owing to the brief Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature, and given that Democrats will hold the state Senate until at least January 2024 does not seem to be imperiled at the moment.)
For the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Hobart has served as a precinct captain in Lyon Park. On the civic and community front, she has been active with the American Association of University Women, Arlington Committee of 100 and Encore Learning, as well as at Clarendon United Methodist Church (meeting her husband, George, in the church choir).
Encore Learning president Barbara Spangler said she has come to rely on the wisdom of Hobart.
“She has been an invaluable help,” Spangler said, calling the honoree “an extraordinarily social person, fun and engaging.”
In remarks following the presentation, Hobart said many others had helped her efforts along the way.
“None of us does this alone,” she said, urging local Democrats to keep bringing new participants into the party’s fold.
“Go out and find them, welcome them,” she encouraged.
The Distinguished Democrat award is effectively a lifetime-achievement accolade presented by the party while also raising funds in the heart of election season. Previous recipients have included Peg Hogan, Charley Conrad, Herschel Kanter, Joan McDermott, Charlene Bickford, Richard and Jean Barton, Sharon Davis and, last year, Whipple and her husband, Tom.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) said the selection of Hobart and Hines for the 2022 honor represented “two people who’ve made an incredible lifetime of contribution.”