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Remembering Levern Blackmon

Levern Blackmon

August 13, 2020

With deep sadness, we share that our colleague Levern Blackmon passed away on August 8. Levern assisted thousands of tenants fighting eviction and demanding safe housing conditions in his 24 years at the Public Justice Center, working as a certified paralegal and housing advocate. We are grateful to have worked with Levern, honored to have known him, and thankful for his friendship. Our thoughts are with his family.

Levern first came to the PJC in 1996 through the PJC’s Tenant Advocacy Training Project, where he trained as a volunteer lay advocate and began representing tenants on the District Court’s rent docket. A graduate of the Baltimore City Community College Paralegal Certification program, Levern continued as an AmeriCorps volunteer and was then hired as the PJC’s Tenant Advocate/Case Manager. Over the years, Levern represented approximately 7,000 tenants and recovered tens of thousands of dollars for tenants from rent escrow accounts (tenants pay rent into rent escrow accounts with the court as a way to compel landlords to fix threats to health and safety). He also served as a paralegal for the PJC’s Prisoners’ Rights Project, meeting with detainees at the Baltimore City Detention Center and advocating for their access to adequate medical care. In recognition of his work, the Maryland Legal Services Corporation awarded Levern the 2005 William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award, which is presented to a non-attorney who has demonstrated outstanding service representing the civil legal needs of low-income Marylanders or expanding access to justice.

Levern was a fierce advocate who loved his clients and always kept their interests front and center. He had an easy way of approaching people, talking with people, and above all, listening to people. The PJC regularly received calls from former clients expressing their appreciation for Levern.

We are inspired by Levern’s kind, respectful, patient, knowledgeable, and resourceful approach to advocating on behalf of clients and his passion for and effectiveness in finding solutions to improve their lives. His wisdom and commitment have inspired and strengthened the advocacy of numerous PJC paralegals and attorneys, and we strive to live up to his example. Levern’s contributions to the Public Justice Center, our clients’ lives, and Baltimore’s tenants are immeasurable. We will miss him greatly.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leaning out of a car and shaking kids' hands.
Levern treasured the time he got to shake Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hand when the civil rights leader visited Baltimore on October 31, 1964. This photo was published by the News American on November 1, 1964. Levern is the boy standing immediately behind the girl smiling to the camera, looking wide-eyed to his right. Levern said he became more just, just by shaking Dr. King’s hand.

In Baltimore, landlords used to be allowed to dump tenants’ belongings on the streets when evicting them. The PJC successfully advocated for a law to stop this practice. Here’s Levern, on the right, with Keith Milligan, former PJC board president and volunteer, and Brother Frank O’Donnell, former director of the PJC’s Tenant Advocacy Project and former board member.
Levern meeting with a tenant at an outreach event.
Levern and PJC executive director John Nethercut, celebrating Levern’s 15 years at the PJC in 2011.