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Celebrating the Legacy of Mary “Sime” Flake Liles: Pioneer, Librarian, and Family Matriarch

 Mrs. Liles on her 100th birthday







Mary “Sime” Flake Liles, a remarkable library trailblazer and beloved matriarch was brought to the attention of Region 2 by her cousin Charlene at this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA). Born in Wadesboro, North Carolina, Sime’s journey resonates with a rich tapestry of service, education, and a profound love for her family. Graduating with honors from Winston-Salem Teachers College in 1943, she embarked on a career journey that would not only shape her life but also leave an indelible mark on the institutions she served.

In 1945, Sime relocated to Washington, D.C., after marrying Roscoe Liles, beginning a lifelong commitment to public service. Her career spanned various esteemed institutions, including the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Commerce, D.C. General Hospital, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Notably, she was among the first African American librarians at the National Library of Medicine and the inaugural African American staff member to grace the front desk. Her legacy, etched in the annals of history, stands as a testament to her pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to excellence.

Retiring from the FDA in 1977 as Chief Reference Librarian, Sime’s passion for the arts flourished in her post-retirement years with jewelry making and greeting card design. Beyond her professional endeavors, Sime’s thirst for exploration and cultural immersion knew no bounds. From the historic streets of Savannah to the majestic pyramids of Egypt, she traversed the globe, enriching her life with diverse experiences and cherished memories.

This month we celebrate the enduring legacy of Mary “Sime” Flake Liles—a beacon of inspiration, a pioneer in her field, and a cherished member of her community.

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