Former state Rep. Mitchell Melton dead at 69

Posted: March 16, 2013

Mitchell Wesley Melton, 69, a former Pennsylvania legislator and cofounder of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, died Monday, March 11, of prostate cancer at Nazareth Hospital.

Mr. Melton lived in Chestnut Hill.

Known to friends as "Mitch," Mr. Melton was born and raised in Philadelphia. He graduated from the Philadelphia public schools, and earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in education by 1978 from Antioch University.

Mr. Melton started out as an insurance agent, writ server, and Democratic committeeman, but he made his name when he was elected in 1968 to the state House of Representatives. Later he became a court officer in Philadelphia and continued to serve in that capacity after he became ill with cancer.

Mr. Melton served as a Democratic member of the 196th state legislative district which comprises the 32d ward in North Philadelphia, from Jan. 7, 1969 to Nov. 30, 1972.

He helped organize the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus in 1969.

Melton authored and sponsored House Bill No. 126, now Act No. 305. The bill provides for a moment of silent prayer and meditation in each public school classroom at the beginning of the day, for those who are so disposed. The bill became law on Dec. 6, 1972.

He also authored and sponsored House Bill No. 79, now Act No. 57, which provides that any motorist who has been found guilty of an infraction of the motor vehicle code, and is sentenced to pay a fine and costs of prosecution, will be given seven days from the date of conviction, to pay up before the motorist can be imprisoned. The bill became law on July 29, 1971.

Mitchell introduced a remarkable 49 bills during his tenure. He also was able to get scholarships for aspiring college students and helped his constituency with obtaining employment and other problems.

Mr. Melton was a deeply religious person, even as a boy. He became a member of Morris Brown A.M.E. Church. He later became a steward, or officer of the church, as well as a member of the choir and the male chorus. In 1962, he married the former Evelyn Grace Riddick; they were married for 51 years.

He spent time as a Boy Scout master. He was a member of the Chestnut Hill Community Association and was presently serving as a member of the Mount Airy Learning Tree, which organizes classes for the community.

Known for his Fourth of July cookouts and picture taking, he would always announce before snapping the shutter: "Moisten your lips, folks."

"The pictures always came out really nicely," said his wife.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons, Tyrone Eugene and and Kevin Mitch; a daughter Donna Marie Russell; two grandchildren; his mother, Ethel Melton; a sister; and nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at the Morris Brown AME Church, 1756 N. 25th St., Philadelphia. A viewing is at 9 a.m. Burial is in Chelten Hills Cemetery.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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