William T. Manning, who championed education as a Howard County school board member even before receiving his college degree, died Saturday of cancer at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. He was 59.
Mr. Manning, who had lived in Columbia since 1973, received his associate's degree eight years ago, the same year he began two years as chairman of the school board.
"He was totally committed to kids," said county school superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who was hired in 1984 while Mr. Manning was a board member. "He was always forcing us to reassess whether or not the bottom line in our decision-making was really in the best interests of the kids," Dr. Hickey said.
Mr. Manning was elected to the school board in 1982 and served six years.
At the time of his death, he was a partner in a downtown Columbia Prudential insurance office and was chairman of the county Planning Board.
"At times," the retired Marine Corps captain "could sound very much like a Marine captain," said Dr. Hickey, also a former Marine. "He had this deep, resonant voice, and there were times that he would sort of call you up short. He kept you on your toes, but he gave you a constant feeling of being supported by him," he said.
Although Mr. Manning missed most Planning Board meetings last summer because of his cancer treatments, he chaired meetings in the fall and seemed to be recovering, Vice Chairwoman Joan Lancos said. "I was thinking about him a lot when I was swearing everybody in with my little voice," said Ms. Lancos, who has filled in for him since December.
He was joined the Planning Board in 1981 and became chairman.
Born in New York City, Mr. Manning attended Stuyvesant High School there and studied photography at a branch of the State University of New York.
In 1953, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and eventually became a combat photographer. While in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967, he received several commendations and medals.
After his combat tour, Mr. Manning continued to do military photographic work, and was commissioned as a lieutenant about 1970. After several postings, he was stationed at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Va., in 1973. He retired in 1976 at the rank of captain.
While stationed in California, he attended the University of Southern California's film school, and in 1986 received an associate's degree in business management.
"Wherever he was, he was always interested in education," said his son, Billy Manning of Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Besides the planning and school boards, Mr. Manning had been a member of a number of education-related bodies, including the Parent-Teacher Association boards of five schools his children attended and the Governor's Commission on School Performance. In 1988, he received the Governor's Citation for Distinguished Service for his service to his community and state.
Mr. Manning was divorced from his first wife, Adele Manning.
Services for Mr. Manning will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, where he had been a member of St. John the Evangelist Baptist Church.
Besides his son, Mr. Manning is survived by his wife of 30 years, Verola "Vickie" Wright Manning; two daughters, Stephanie Manning of New York and Valerie Manning of Palo Alto, Calif.; a brother, Donald Manning of Oxnard, Calif; and two grandchildren.