Linda Lee Bowdoin passed away on January 9, 2024, at home in Washington, D.C. at the age of 81. She had been in home hospice care since November with Lewy Body Dementia.
Linda was born on December 9, 1942 to Frances Denham Bowdoin and Joseph Warren Bowdoin at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. From her early childhood in East Point, Georgia onward, Linda loved learning. Upon entering Russell High school, she was so enthralled with her Geometry class that, with her own pocket money, she purchased the textbook at the end of the school year –a treasured volume that remained in her collection for the rest of her life. She attended Russell through the 11th grade and sometimes joked that she never finished high school, but in fact she attended Oxford College at Emory University during what would have been her senior year. Linda’s pursuit of higher learning led her to the University of Chicago, where she majored in Philosophy, graduating in 1965. She presented her diploma to her father, saying he was the one who had really earned it by somehow stretching the family’s modest resources to finance her education.
Linda returned to Atlanta to attend graduate school at Emory University and married high school classmate, Marion Cornett, Jr. Shortly after returning to Atlanta, she became active in the civil rights movement and served as a volunteer for Maynard Jackson’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in a run against incumbent Herman Talmadge. On April 9, 1968, Linda joined 100,000 other mourners in the funeral procession of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., following the mule-drawn wagon bearing his casket through Atlanta’s streets, from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College. Later that year, Linda and Marion’s only child, Meredith, was born. Linda completed her Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1970, including a dissertation thesis on the ethical influences of Immanuel Kant on modern Western philosophy. She taught philosophy at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia until 1975.
In 1976, Linda began a new career in federal government with the U.S. Civil Service Commission (now the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), developing training programs and facilitating labor relations. She transitioned to the Atlanta Regional Office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1980 and spent the next decade specializing in supervisory personnel management and labor relations, building a reputation as a strong negotiator.
In 1990, Linda moved to one of her favorite cities—Washington, D.C.—to serve as the Executive Assistant to a newly appointed Member of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. She explored her new hometown with gusto, taking in as many monuments, museums, restaurants, plays and concerts as her demanding schedule allowed. The final stage of Linda’s career was spent at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she directed the Office of Administration for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. She was proud to use her management experience in service of protecting the environment.
Linda loved movies. She was a member of the Atlanta Film Society and continued to seek out beautiful and thought-provoking cinema after moving to Washington, D.C. This was lucky, because, while standing in line for the Australian Film Festival at the Smithsonian, she met the man who would eventually become her husband, Phil Winterfeldt. Linda and Phil were married for 25 years, continuing to sample all that D.C. offers in the way of art, food, music and history. Travel was another of Linda’s passions. She and Phil made frequent trips to New York City in pursuit of art and theater. They also ventured abroad together to Italy, France, and Greece among other destinations.
In retirement, Linda stayed active with volunteer service, gardening, language classes and being a grandparent—a role she cherished. Her love of books and literature led her to serve on the Board of Directors of her local public library (Friends of Tenley-Friendship Library), and as a Reading Partner with neighborhood elementary students. Linda also volunteered with Casey Trees, assisting with D.C.’s urban forest inventory and caring for the boulevard trees in her neighborhood. She maintained a garden plot with Phil at the Friendship Community Garden, where tomatoes, eggplants, hot peppers and basil flourished. Over the years, they redesigned their own gardens with a wildlife-friendly, artistic and culinary sensibility. Linda took great joy in tending these spaces, observing the birds and butterflies that took refuge there, and simply gazing at the seasonal changes from her perch at the dining room table.
Linda’s curiosity, quick wit and adventurous spirit were brought into high relief when she became a grandparent. She loved sharing new experiences with her grandchild, Charlie—riding a city bus to the end of the line just to see where they ended up; sledding for the first time at the age of 70; flying kites on the National Mall. She maintained many of her routines in her later years with Phil, most days beginning with coffee, The Washington Post and Sudoku and ending with a bar of dark chocolate and the PBS News Hour. Phil’s support and care helped sustain Linda’s quality of life even as her health deteriorated.
Linda is survived by her husband Phillip Winterfeldt, daughter Meredith Cornett [Ethan Perry]; grandchild Charlie A. C. Perry, and sister JoAnn Bowdoin-Aynsley. A small, private service will be held at a later time.
Memorial donations in Linda’s name may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, whose mission to create a more perfect union by defending the Constitutional rights of all people nationwide she fully embraced.
“For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first.” –Immanuel Kant