Ellen H Ellie Kelly, Baltimore Civic Leader and Trailblazer in Environmental Affairs, Passes Away

Op-Ed: Remembering Baltimore Environmental Trailblazer Ellie Kelly

Civic Leader, Environmental Activist, and Lobbyist

Ellen H. “Ellie” Kelly was a Baltimore civic leader and environmental activist who left an indelible mark on her community. As a trailblazer in environmental affairs, Kelly mobilized the Garden Club of America into a respected governmental lobby, both locally and nationally. She died from complications of leukemia at Springwell Retirement Community in Mount Washington, leaving behind a legacy of environmental advocacy and a life-long commitment to making a difference.

Childhood Memories of Ruxton

Ellen Whitmore Harvey, born and raised on Brightside Road in Ruxton, grew up next door to her cousin, former Republican State Sen. C. A. Porter Hopkins. Both noticed the change in living and the countryside in Ruxton, and how the extension of suburbia was impacting the environment.

A Life of Civic Engagement

After marrying William Boulton “Bo” Kelly Jr. in 1950, the couple moved to Baltimore in 1957, and eventually settled into a home on Rolandvue Road in Ruxton where they raised six children. Mrs. Kelly immersed herself in civic affairs, working with numerous organizations and serving on the Florence Crittenton and Mental Health Association, and the Family and Children’s Society boards. Conservation and environmental issues were always a focus of Mrs. Kelly’s activism, which was the result of her civic involvement. Mrs. Kelly testified before Congress in the 1970s to widen the lists of plants protected by the Endangered Species Act, and founded the Maryland chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 1975.

Environmental Activism and Advocacy

One of Mrs. Kelly’s most important accomplishments was mobilizing the Garden Club of America into a respected lobby, both locally and nationally on environmental legislation. “The earliest such effort resulted in the Clean Air Act in the late 1970s under President Jimmy Carter, where the young senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, sent her a congratulatory note,” said her son, William B. Kelly Jr., of Wilmington, Delaware. Her issues ranged from redwood legislation, toxic substances, water pollution, and reform of the Highway Beautification Act. One of her favorite poems was Ogden Nash’s “I think that I shall never see, a billboard lovely as a tree.”

Legacy and Community Involvement

In 1982, Governor Parris Glendening appointed Mrs. Kelly to the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust where she served until 2001. Locally, she was a legislative chair of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland from 1998 to 2007, a member of the Irvine Nature Center board, and a member of the Jones Falls Watershed Association. She was the founder and later vice president of the Women’s Committee at the Walters Art Museum, chairman of the Friends Advisory Council at the Johns Hopkins Sheridan library, and a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Historic Trust. Mrs. Kelly enjoyed playing tennis and summering at “The Beach House,” the Fishers Island, New York, home that her husband had designed in the Modernist style in 1969, and where she had been president of the Fishers Island Conservancy from 2002 to 2006.


Ellie Kelly’s extraordinary life was defined by her commitment to environmental advocacy, civic engagement, and community involvement. She was a trailblazer, an activist, and a lobbyist who left an indelible mark on Baltimore. Her legacy lives on through the countless individuals, organizations, and causes she touched throughout her remarkable life.

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