Longtime leader, advocate passes away

Posted July 27, 2012

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— Trailblazing civic leader and volunteer Betty Ann Knudsen has died at 85. 

Knudsen was the first woman to chair the Wake County Board of Commissioners. She helped lead the merger of Raleigh City Schools and Wake County schools in 1976. She also helped create Wake County’s public libraries, greenways, public transportation, and 911 system.

Knudsen was also well-known for many decades of community service and for mentoring many women who followed her into public office. She was an outspoken advocate for women's and children's causes.

A lifelong Democrat, she was active in party leadership. She managed the campaign of Raleigh's first woman mayor, Isabella Cannon.  

Knudsen was one of the first leaders inducted into Raleigh’s Hall of Fame when it was launched in 2005. She was also the subject of a documentary, "Show Up, Speak Out: The Public Life of Betty Ann Knudsen," released in 2009. 

Knudsen was battling Parkinson's disease, friends say, and had been declining health for the past two years. She was in hospice care at Sunrise Senior Living Center. 


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  • Vivian Jul 27, 2012

    Betty Ann Knudsen was a kind and generous woman with exceptional intelligence and integrity. She was respectful of everyone regardless of their political views. She knew that you could disagree without personal attacks and refused to participate in any negative campaigning. She took her responsibility to the taxpayers and citizens of Wake County seriously. Her initiatives as the chair of the Wake County Commission led to the many services we all now enjoy and at the same time she saved the county thousands of dollars by modernizing fiscal practices. She was a shining example of what we want a public official to be: honest, responsive, responsible, and hard-working. To those of you would come here to leave disrespectful comments on the day this gentle woman died: Shame on you. Shame on you. You reveal yourself by your comments. Please find some respect and compassion. One day you will want the same.

  • limitguvment Jul 27, 2012

    So she was good at spending other peoples money as most life long democrats are??

  • wakewiseone Jul 27, 2012

    "...........helped create Wake County’s public libraries, greenways, public transportation, and 911 system."

    i dont believe those things.

  • affirmativediversity Jul 27, 2012

    Without Betty Ann, there would be no couty library system, no greenways. per jbpsquared


    Do you not think that's just a little over the top?

    The woman had every right to her political beliefs and I commend her for her civic participation in support of those beliefs BUT let's face it not everyone agreed or agrees with her beliefs and all her pet political projects are not exactly booming successes.

    Oh and Mom on Call would you be just as pleased to have your daughter meet and be inspired by Sarah Palin or Condi Rice OR is it just a particular type of civic minded women you're so enamored of?

  • jbpsquared Jul 27, 2012

    wa4mjf- Your comment is totally inappropriate.
    You obviously never knew Betty Ann nor did you live here prior to the merger. Our schools are better and those better schools are one of the reasons Wake County and Raleigh are growing.

    Without Betty Ann, there would be no couty library system, no greenways.

  • artist Jul 27, 2012

    "Young women need good positive role models like Betty Ann."


  • Mom on Call Jul 27, 2012

    Really wa4mjf? Show some class please...this is not the time.

    Betty Ann was an inspiration to all who knew her and in all she did. She will truly be missed. I am pleased that my daughters had the chance to meet her and to be inspired by her to be active in the community that they live in by doing so. Young women need good positive role models like Betty Ann. She will be missed....