A Maritime Moment for Helen Delich Bentley

On Saturday, August 6th the maritime industry suffered a great loss as infamous Baltimore Port advocate, Helen Delich Bentley, passed. She was renowned for her work in growing the maritime industry as a whole and will be sorely missed.

After earning her Journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Helen was hired by the Baltimore Sun in the mid-1940’s and commenced her flourishing maritime career writing a column entitled “Around the Waterfront.” She was the first female news reporter entrusted to cover the predominantly male-operated port. Her talent in print work eventually blossomed into a television career wherein she created and hosted the acclaimed show “The Port That Built a City and State,” which ran for 15 consecutive years.  Samuel, Shapiro’s founder, was an outspoken advocate for the Maryland Port Authority’s formation and interestingly, the Company became the first sponsor on Baltimore’s WMAR TV when that station aired “The Port That Built a City.”

Following the culmination of “The Port that Built a City and State”, Helen was thrust into the world of politics where she first served as the maritime matters advisor to the Nixon-Agnew campaign. After the election, Nixon appointed her to head the Federal Maritime Commission where she served as the first woman chair and held the highest office position of any woman in the Nixon administration.

In 1984, continuing her surge into politics, Helen was elected to Congress. She was an unwavering proponent of bolstering U.S. manufacturing, but still appreciated the need for– and the benefits of– imported goods. In 1990, still serving as a congresswoman, Helen played an imperative role in securing a 50-foot deep channel for the Port of Baltimore. The 50-foot channel has allowed the Port of Baltimore to continue to accommodate large vessels and thus, remain a competitive port in the ever-changing landscape of international shipping.

In recognition of all that she accomplished, the Port of Baltimore was officially re-named the Helen Delich Bentley Port in 2008. It is the only U.S. port to be named after a single person.

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of the insurmountable Helen Delich Bentley.

We were fortunate enough to hear her speak almost a year ago to the day at our company’s centennial anniversary.  She spoke of about her history with our founder, my grandfather, and about her role in fighting for the development of the port of Baltimore.  She certainly was an uninhibited, driven ball of fire. But she was much more than that. She was a pioneer for women generally, and for our industry specifically.

Baltimore Sun: A pioneer for the maritime industry and for women

-- Marjorie Shapiro
President/CEO