Elizabeth Rose Bryan Fortson of Washington, DC, departed this life on April 28, 2017, at 80 years of age. She was born in Oldtown, VA, to Rudolph and Madeline Bryan. The oldest of seven children on a mountain farm, she grew up quiet and bookish. At one point she traveled three hours by bus each day to attend the closest high school available to black children, in Wytheville. She graduated as valedictorian of Scott Memorial High School and attended Spelman College, where she met Charles Fortson, a Morehouse student. After she became the first black laboratory professional at Emory University, they married on June 28, 1958.
In 1961 the couple moved to Washington, where they raised two children, Bryan and Elizabeth (Lyia). Their paramount goal was educating their children; they made many sacrifices to see them graduate from Georgetown Day School and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech (Bryan) and Harvard and Columbia (Lyia). In 1963 they bought a large home so that siblings and many other relatives could come up from "down home," stay with them, and get an education or a job.
Libby was a celebrated chef and hostess and an avid reader-especially of mysteries-and she had an encyclopedic knowledge of family history. Another great passion was travel; she and Charles went to Asia, Africa, and South America, as well as all across the U.S. She enjoyed a successful 35-year career in the pathology department at Georgetown University, where some of the world's most renowned research doctors considered her the best lab technician in the business. She became laboratory manager for the department and for the university hospital.
Her loving survivors include husband Charles; son Bryan Fortson; daughter Lyia Arroyo; siblings Anita Bryan, Iris Langford (Billy), Rudolph Bryan (Ann), and Robert Bryan (Gloria); grandchildren Andrew and Melissa Fortson; beloved home aide and second daughter Kelalle Merdassa; and a host of other relatives and friends. She was preceded in death by brothers Fred (Kelly) and Eric Bryan.