Longtime leader, advocate passes away

Posted July 27, 2012 12:31 p.m. EDT
Updated July 27, 2012 12:34 p.m. EDT

— 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.