Pauline Ellison Arlington

Pauline Ellison speaks to Arlington County Board members after being honored at the Oct. 21 board meeting.

County Board members on Oct. 21 honored Pauline Ellison for decades of service on Arlington’s Civil Service Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee.

“We’re just proud that she lives in our community and proud that she chooses to give back – you have contributed so much,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said at the recognition ceremony.

Ellison and her husband moved to Arlington in 1956, at a time when racial segregation was the norm. Since then, “I have seen the great growth, development and unprecedented changes,” Ellison said, turning Arlington into “one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.”

Ellison served on the Civil Service Commission for 28 years, including seven terms as chairman, and served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee for 24 years.

Beth Wolffe, who served with Ellison for 12 of those years, said Ellison was the one who welcomed her and showed her the ropes.

“She was the inspiration” to new members, Wolffe said.

“It was a labor of love,” Ellison responded, reminding Arlington residents that “we don’t stand in the shadow of the nation’s capital; we shine a glorious light upon it.”

In her professional life, Ellison rose to become director of personnel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – the first African-American woman to serve as personnel chief for a federal agency – and at one point was ranked on Ebony magazine’s list of the nation’s 100 most influential African-Americans.

Fisette noted a litany of organizations, both local and national, that benefited from her counsel and leadership.

They include service with the Arlington Community Foundation, Jack-and-Jill, The Links (where Ellison was national president), the National Conference on Christians and Jews and the Inter-Service Club Council of Arlington, which honored her as Arlington’s Woman of the Year in 1986.

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