Former Wilmington Council President Blunt dies at 80
WILMINGTON — Ted Blunt, the venerated Wilmington city council president and father of Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, died on Jan. 11. He was 80.
Blunt died at his home Thursday night, surrounded by his family. His passing was announced by Blunt Rochester the following day, and a cause of death was not disclosed in an obituary. Gov. John Carney ordered the state flag to be flown at half-staff on his internment.
“My heart is broken at the passing of my father, my hero, and my inspiration,” Blunt Rochester said in a post on social media. “Dad was an educator, mentor, leader, and friend to so many. My family asks for your grace, prayers, and privacy as we mourn his loss.”
Born in Philadelphia, Blunt grew up in public housing projects and often walked the city on many explorations. But he loved the library, shaping his path of becoming an educator later in life. He was also the first to graduate high school and college, making his way to what is now-known as Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.
While starting his studies, Blunt made the basketball team as starting point guard in his freshman year. He went on to be one of legendary coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines’ early superstars at Winston-Salem State, and was named the 1963 CIAA Tournament MVP and earned all-conference team selections for three seasons. His No. 12 jersey now hangs proudly in the university’s basketball arena.
Blunt was heavily involved in Winston-Salem State University as an alumni, serving on its Board of Trustees. At one point, he was named president of the board and chairman of the university’s endowment fund. Decades later, Blunt repaid the scholarship that sent him to Winston-Salem out of pocket.
His basketball skills were legendary, even years after he dedicated himself to civic service. Delaware State Housing Authority Secretary Eugene Young said he first came across Blunt’s legacy as a teenager, playing basketball in the Sonny Hill League in the City of Brotherly Love.
“Sonny Hill and I were talking, and he leaned over and said, ‘You know who you should watch and try to emulate? Who’s a real baller from Delaware? Ted Blunt,’” Young told the Delaware Business Times. “I almost fell over. He was the Wilmington renaissance man and he was always smiling. He always had something to teach someone in our community.”
After graduating college, Blunt returned to Philadelphia and continued his studies and worked as a group therapist at Temple University. By 1969, he and his family moved to Wilmington where he served as director for Peoples Settlement Association, an organization devoted to improving quality of life in north Wilmington.
Later on, he served as an administrator in the pre-desegregation Wilmington school system, and later still in two more districts in the county. He also taught night courses at University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.
In 1984, Blunt was elected to represent the first councilmanic district of Wilmington City Council. Sixteen years later, he was named its president. He served a quarter of a century, and under his tenure, he aided in creating a citywide scholarship fund, extending community centers hours and sending financial aid to the city’s elementary schools.
“Ted was a respected leader in the city, and his fine job in leadership could be used in the city today,” said former Wilmington City Councilman Theo Gregory, who served with Blunt. “We worked together in making sure there were jobs in the city, there was pay equity for city employees and more resources for our community. Even when we disagreed, it was with thoughtful debate. Of the members of the fraternity of politics, I can count him among them — and as a friend.”
Council President Trippi Congo noted that Blunt kept his roots true to the city and was passionate about shaping Wilmington for a better tomorrow.
“Wilmington lost one of its greatest leaders and public servants,” he said in a statement. “Thanks to the Honorable Ted Blunt’s selfless service, Wilmington is a better place. The legacy he leaves behind will continue to inspire Wilmingtonians for years to come.”
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki noted that Blunt led by example, and that he leaves behind a city that was undoubtedly better for his passion and service.
“With a smile as big as his heart, he was a rare politician who seemingly had not one single enemy,” the mayor said. “I will miss his friendship and his counsel, and while we all mourn his passing let us take time to celebrate and take inspiration from his life and the lasting legacy he leaves behind.”
Carney said he was proud to also call Blunt among his friends, and celebrated his many accomplishments on the basketball court and in city hall.
“We both shared a love of basketball, Ted having been a star guard at Winston-Salem State, where he played in the backcourt with Hall of Famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. When I was in high school, Ted invited me to play on a summer basketball team he organized that toured the East Coast,” the governor said. “Throughout his time in public service, he developed strong relationships with countless Delawareans, and we join with everyone in his community in expressing our condolences to the Blunt family.”
Blunt stepped down from the Wilmington City Council in 2008 to run on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor in Delaware. He ended his campaign before heading to the primary, citing the need to maintain a united front in the party, among other reasons.
He inspired others to follow in his footsteps, like Young, who ran for mayor in 2016 and lost by a slim margin.
“After that race, I was down. I saw Ted at Libby’s [Restaurant] holding court. What he said to me will remain between us, but they were beautiful words to inspire me to keep pushing. I’m forever indebted to him for inspiring me to continue,” Young recalled.
His civic service also inspired his daughter, Blunt Rochester. He stood by her side on election night in November 2016 as she became the first woman and Black representative elected to serve Delaware in federal office.
Throughout the years, Blunt was an active member of the greater Wilmington community. At various points of his career, he was president of the Wilmington Youth Athletic Association; chair of the Wilmington Housing Authority Board; president of Hayes Park Civic Association; chair of the 9th Ward Democratic Club; chair of the Delaware Association for Specialized Transportation; and board member of the Christina Cultural Arts Center and the Kingswood Community Center.
Despite his long legacy of community service, he was also known for a smile and a laugh. Logan Herring, the CEO of the WRK Group that oversees the Kingswood Community Center and the REACH Riverside project, said that while their paths did not cross often, he would never forget Blunt’s boundless energy.
“I ran into him when my friend and I were going to Libby’s, and he was full of energy. I used to model in fashion shows, and he was teasing me about it with the biggest smile,” Herring said.
Another time, Herring and Blunt were at a Tony Roberts comedy show. Roberts complimented Blunt on his sharp appearance, including his graying hair.
“He said, ‘You should be on a new nickel,’ and I almost fell out of my chair laughing. And Ted was laughing too. He was very down to earth, and he understood there needed to be that balance,” Herring said.
Blunt is survived by his wife, Alice; a sister and a brother; four daughters; six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.