Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cambridge City Hall, prepared for a special event in 2020, will host visiting hours for the late Saundra Graham on Monday. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Former city councillor, state representative and housing activist Saundra Graham will lie in state in the Sullivan Chamber at Cambridge City Hall on Monday, the city said Saturday in one of the daily updates emailed to residents.

It’s a rare honor – and potentially a first.

“It’s very rare,” said Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, reached by phone. “It certainly hasn’t happened for a long time.”

Graham died June 23 at age 81 with a legacy of being Cambridge’s first Black woman city councillor, a former Massachusetts state representative and namesake of the Graham & Parks School with fellow civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

In honor of her “contributions to the City of Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city has arranged for her to lie in state,” the city said. The visitation hours are 3 to 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, followed by an 11 a.m. Tuesday funeral at Harvard Memorial Church, 1 Harvard Yard, Harvard Square, Cambridge, according to the A.J. Spears Funeral Home in the Riverside neighborhood.

One of Graham’s early victories was against Harvard – getting university officials to back down from a dorm expansion plan in 1970 that would have displaced Riverside residents. In 1971, she became the first Black woman elected to the City Council, and was vice mayor in the 1976-1977 term. She represented the 4th Middlesex District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1977 to 1988. Her time on the two bodies overlapped until 1983.

Graham was the mother of five and is survived by seven siblings, 12 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, according to an obituary.