Elsie Taylor Jordan (Ms. Elsie) died peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by her family at the Birmingham Green long-term care facility in Manassas on Feb. 7, 2014.
A native Alexandrian, she is remembered the most for her active role in bringing the Alexandria community together and being a firm believer in the city’s youth. She was a lifelong member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church where she co-founded a group called the Gospeliers that ministered through song, and was an avid church singer herself. Ms. Elsie helped organize the Youth Church, which gave Ebenezer Baptist Church youth prominent positions within the organization such as junior deacons, youth ministers and youth pastors.
“My mother was a community activist and was instrumental in helping the youth of the city, said Minister Becky Jenkins. “She made sure the city reflected the demographics of the city.”
Ms. Elsie’s career in community service began in the late 1960s when she joined the Hopkins House Association where she worked as a social worker and helped to give food, shelter and healthcare to the people of Alexandria. At the Hopkins House Association she created the Crunch Bunch Program, which helped to care for Alexandria’s senior citizens. Crunch Bunch took the elderly grocery shopping, to doctor appointments and provided them with lunch and activities. Ms. Elsie’s Crunch Bunch Program continues today.
Lucretia Martin, a long-time friend and Hopkins House Association colleague of Ms. Elsie, says that Ms. Elsie was like a second mother to the people in the Alexandria community and at the Hopkins House Association.
“She was just amazing, she was there for the people and dedicated to the people,” said Martin. “She took everyone under her arm and made sure people had food and clothing, she was just a remarkable person.”
Ms. Elsie’s devotion to the Alexandria community spanned outside of work. Ms. Elsie’s children and former colleagues remember her as one of the most outspoken people in Alexandria who could help settle any dispute.
When the riots from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s spilled into Alexandria, the city police had a difficult time to keep people at ease. Jenkins’s recalls the police giving her mother a bullhorn that she used to get the rioters’ attention and sent them home before more rioting could continue.
“She was not afraid to speak truth to power and she worked tirelessly in the community,” said Jenkins.
In the 1970s Ms. Elsie joined the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department where she started working as a matron and then as an administrative deputy sheriff. Ms. Elsie played a crucial role in making sure the workforce at the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department represented the demographics of the city. And Ms. Elsie also helped to stop a prison break during her time at the Sheriff’s Department.
Chief Deputy of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department Clarke Stearns remembers when Ms. Elsie first hired him over 31 years ago. Stearns says that Ms. Elsie was his mentor and hired most of the department’s current staff, which has made the Alexandria Sheriff’s Department what it is today.
In the 1980s Ms. Elsie fought against drug addition in Alexandria and helped established the city’s first Methadone program at the Alexandria Health Department. She was a witness to the effects of crack in her community, and worked with Republican state Sen. Wiley Mitchell to petition for more drug rehabilitation programs as an alternative solution to jail. In 1989, Ms. Elsie testified in front of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging about the effects of the city’s crack endemic on senior citizens who were being forced to care for their crack born grandchildren.
If any violence stuck the city, the Alexandria Police Department did not hesitate to call on Ms. Elsie. She worked with the police department to co-found the Community Action Team — CAT. The CAT program worked alongside the police department to ease violence in the city, and helped to keep the youth out of trouble and off the streets.
Ms. Elsie received numerous community awards for her work in Alexandria such as the Medal of Valor from the Alexandria Police Department and the Mary Church Terrell Award from the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice. On Ms. Elsie’s 60th birthday, the City of Alexandria did a proclamation declaring that day as the Elsie Jordan Taylor Day.
Ms. Elsie was a devoted mother, grandmother, spouse, aunt and sister who leaves behind one son, Geoffrey C. Thomas and five daughters, Minister Becky Mays Jenkins, Liz Dixon, Kim Smith Roberson, Polly L. Green and Sandy Taylor Hawkins; 21 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren; one brother, Deacon William Charity; one sister, Marjorie Burts; and was predeceased by her oldest daughter Vernie Wanzer.