Connie B. Mchugh, 58, Activist

Posted: September 21, 1997

Connie Black McHugh, 58, a one-term state representative and South Philadelphia community activist, died of lung cancer yesterday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She lived in South Philadelphia.

Mrs. McHugh had taken early retirement from her job with the city court system on July 1 and learned of her cancer on July 7, her family said.

She is perhaps best remembered for her firebrand leadership in South Philadelphia's Pennsport section, which is bordered by Front and Fourth Streets and Washington and Snyder Avenues.

Mrs. McHugh led the fight in the early 1970s against a planned ramp to Interstate 95 at Front Street, arguing that increased traffic would disrupt the residential character of the neighborhood. The ramp was redesigned so that traffic was rerouted onto Water Street.

She helped secure the Ralph Rizzo ice rink at Front Street under I-95, was a founder and board member of the Mummers Museum, and raised money for senior citizens so they could take trips.

In the early 1970s, Mrs. McHugh was appointed court crier for the Common Pleas Court. She spent nearly 20 years in that position.

Her civic involvement gradually led her into politics and she became an ardent campaigner for the late Mayor Frank L. Rizzo. In 1987, at the urging of friends, she gave up her court position and ran for City Council against the incumbent, popular South Philadelphian James Tayoun. Mrs. McHugh lost by 134 votes.

In 1990 she ran for the state House and upset the Democratic incumbent, Joseph Howlett, becoming the first Republican in many years to win a seat from South Philadelphia in Harrisburg.

In 1992, she decided to seek a City Council seat again, and running against the wishes of some supporters, she lost to Joseph Vignola.

In 1993, Mrs. McHugh was named a legislative assistant to State Rep. John M. Perzel and in 1994 returned to the court system as a trial commissioner, trying to settle cases between litigants and avoid trials.

She is survived by a son, Joseph DiGrazio; two daughters, Kathleen Malatesta and Constance Adams; her father, Archibald Black; a brother; and six grandchildren.

A viewing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rogers Funeral Home, 1426 South Third St. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, South Third and Reed Streets. Entombment will be at Arlington Cemetery, Drexel Hill.

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