Harry Sanders, the “Father of the Purple Line” who died of cancer three years ago, will be honored on Thursday with a memorial in a Silver Spring park to be attended by transit activists, community leaders and some County Council members.
Sanders was known as one of the leading advocates of building the Purple Line, the proposed 16-mile light rail transit system that would run from Bethesda’s Elm Street to Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, College Park and other stops on its way to New Carrollton.
He helped found the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) and Purple Line NOW!, two organizations that have led the charge for Purple Line funding, which through years of planning has virtually full support from local policy makers.
In 1986, when Sanders co-founded ACT, his idea was for a trolley line that would connect Bethesda and Silver Spring. Today, that project has become an estimated $2.2 billion system from the Maryland Transit Administration. A vote is expected soon in the Maryland State Senate on a transportation bill that would be a critical funding source.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Silver Spring’s Woodside Park, Sanders’ former neighbors, his family and the Montgomery Parks Foundation will dedicate a tree and plaque in his name.
“I can’t wait for the day we finally break ground on the Purple Line,” County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) said in a press release. “Although Harry lost his battle with cancer while we were all still waiting for that day to arrive, when it finally does, Harry’s spirit and his memory will live in all of us.”
“This wonderful tree and plaque were gifts from my father’s neighbors who valued his work to form connections within the community. That same impulse motivated his work for the Purple Line,” said Greg Sanders, son of Harry and Barbara Sanders and an officer of Purple Line NOW!. “Transit is not mere concrete and steel — it is connecting people with jobs, family and friends, and education. Harry loved trains, but he loved people even more. Connecting all our people is worth paying for.”