Amanda Rudd, turned away as a child from the segregated library in her South Carolina hometown, followed her love of learning and books to become the first African-American to head the Chicago Public Library.
As library commissioner from about 1982 to 1985, Rudd worked to spread her love of books and learning, said Mary Ghikas, an assistant commissioner under Rudd and who is now senior associate executive director of the American Library Association.
"She was very big on literacy — that was really a big deal for her," Ghikas said. "She was very keen on getting literacy services, books and reading resources out to all the neighborhoods."
Rudd also was a strong mentor to younger colleagues, including Carla Hayden, now librarian of Congress. In a letter to Rudd's daughter, Hayden wrote, "Amanda was a trailblazer in the library field and I benefited greatly from her guidance during my time at the Chicago Public Library."
Rudd, 93, died of natural causes Feb. 11 in Arbor Terrace Assisted Living in Atlanta, according to her daughter, Loretta O'Brien-Parham. She moved to Atlanta about six years ago, after living in retirement in Washington, D.C., and before that in Cleveland.
She was born Amanda Sullivan in Greenville, S.C. Her daughter said she received a bachelor's degree from Florida A & M University in Tallahassee and later a master's degree in library science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where she lived from the late 1950s until 1970.
Photo gallery: Newsmakers and celebrities with Chicago ties who died in 2017.
After working as a second-grade teacher in Cleveland public schools, Rudd became a school librarian and eventually assistant director of school libraries in the city, her daughter said.
She moved to Chicago in 1970, joining the defunct Field Enterprises, then the publisher of the World Book Encyclopedia. She worked as an educational consultant, traveling around the country teaching educators how to incorporate the encyclopedia into their teaching.
Rudd took a job in 1975 with the Chicago Public Library, working on community outreach. She was a deputy commissioner and then acting commissioner before taking on the commissioner's job in the early 1980s.
It was a time, Ghikas said, when Chicago Public Library and libraries around the country were working to make collections more diverse. Rudd played a solid role in that effort.
Photo gallery: Newsmakers and celebrities who died in 2017.
Members of her management team could disagree with her but had to do their homework and be sure of their facts to do so.
"You needed to be on your game," Ghikas said, "because she certainly was going to be."
Rudd resigned from the commissioner job in 1985. As reported in the Chicago Tribune at the time, she was given a substantial consulting contract lasting almost two more years.
After leaving the library, O'Brien-Parham said her mother worked for Baker & Taylor, a distributor of books and other materials. She worked for some time putting together an annotated bibliography of children's books for, by and about African-Americans.
From there, she moved back to Cleveland and then to Washington, D.C., before moving to Atlanta. "Enjoying retirement," said her daughter, who is also a librarian.
Rudd also is survived by a son, Grover Cleveland Randle Jr.; a brother, Eddie Sullivan; five grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Her two marriages ended in divorce.
Services were held.
Graydon Megan is a freelance reporter.
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