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Carla Cohen, co-owner of famed Washington, D.C., bookstore, dies at 74

October 11, 2010 |  4:04 pm

Carla Cohen, a community activist who co-owned a Washington bookstore that became a city institution and a key stop for writers ranging from Bill Clinton to J.K. Rowling, has died.

Cohen died Monday of cancer of the bile ducts, the Politics and Prose bookstore announced on its website. She was 74 and died at her home in Washington.

A former city planner, congressional aide and federal housing official, Cohen founded the store in 1984 with co-owner Barbara Meade.

Politics and Prose has become a key stop for political and literary figures promoting books.

A Baltimore native, Cohen graduated from Antioch College and worked for years in Philadelphia and Washington as an advocate for greater local control of housing and of neighborhood planning. In the late 1970s, she was an aide to Robert Embry Jr., assistant secretary for community planning and development in the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Carter administration.

After Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in 1980, Cohen was out of a job and decided to start a bookstore, her devotion to reading and current affairs besting her disregard for profit and loss. The money side would be handled by Meade, who answered a classified ad in which Cohen sought a store manager.

"She had never been interested in running a business, so her friends told her she had to partner up with somebody who could do that," Meade said.

-- Associated Press