March 21, 1945 - June 20, 2020
On Saturday, June 20, 2020 an Angel of the Lord was dispatched to Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, VA to receive Gwynne Harris McCathorine.
Gwynne was born in Philadelphia, PA at Frederick Douglas Memorial Hospital on March, 21, 1945. She was the daughter of the late Fred T. McCathorine and Ruby G. McCathorine. The eldest of her siblings, Gwynne graduated from Knoxville College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology. She began her career in criminal justice as a District of Columbia policewoman in 1968. In 1970, she transferred to the DC Department of Corrections as a case worker and later as administrator of a halfway house. Her work with the Federal Prison Service began in 1971. After many promotions, Gwynne became the first Black female warden in the history of the Federal Prison Services in July 1981. Constantly seeking ways to bridge the gap between the criminal justice system and the community, one of her many accomplishments include establishing the first branch of the NAACP within a Federal female prison in 1982. Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter, Rev. Yolanda King, participated in the installation of the branch, and even stayed at the home of Gwynne and her family. In 1983, she was assigned to the position of Special Assistant to the Regional Director of the Northeast Regional Office, Federal Bureau of Prisons in Philadelphia, PA. Gwynne relocated to Virginia in 1985 as the Assistant Director of Educational, Industrial, and Agricultural Services of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Upon retiring from her career in criminal justice in 2002, Gwynne obtained her teaching certificate and taught Special Education in the Prince William County School system until her health began to fail.
A trailblazer, servant-leader and sought-after national speaker at the height of her career, Gwynne belonged to a myriad of organizations such as the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, American Association of Corrections, NAACP, and of course, her beloved sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Her leadership roles and numerous awards are expansive and expand to both professional and community organizations. Gwynne most often spoke with love and adoration that her most significant and noteworthy roles were that of mother and grandmother. She loved her daughters dearly, and her grandchildren held the keys to her heart.
Most importantly, Gwynne was a woman of God and a dedicated member of First Mount Zion Baptist Church for over 33 years. Even when her body no longer allowed her to serve in the ministries she enjoyed such as the Women’s Choir and the Security Ministry, she remained faithful in her attendance. Unless she was sick or a transportation issue arose, her bright smile could always be seen down front on the right sitting with her family. There was usually a line of members formed there waiting for their chance to talk to her! First Mount Zion recognized her as a “Noteworthy Mother” in 2018.
Gwynne McCathorine is survived by her two daughters, Valeria Sizer and Francesca Johnson. Grandchildren, Ivy and Evan Johnson, Sister Sanfra McCathorine Jones (Samuel A. Jones, Jr), Brothers Fred Mcathorine (Josie McCathorine) and James McCathorine, Uncle John (Noreta Gwynn), nieces and nephews, and a host of other relatives and friends.