Samuel L. Banks, an outspoken educator of African-American children, who worked for the Baltimore school system for more than 30 years, died unexpectedly this morning at his Prince George's County home. He was 64.
Dr. Banks, who was director of compensatory education and funded programs for the city schools, died shortly after he awoke this morning, said his wife, Elizabeth.
"He worked yesterday. He came home and had dinner and went to bed," said Mrs. Banks.
"I was just about getting ready to get up," she said, when she noticed something was wrong with her husband.
She heard him take two heavy breaths and heard no breathing after that. She called an ambulance, which took him to Prince George's General Hospital. She said she did not know exactly what time he died.
Dr. Banks was a frequent voice on the Sun and Evening Sun's letters to the editor pages. His most recent letter appeared on last Saturday's commentary page.
In his letters, he took on many topics -- most dealing with the inequities he perceived toward African-Americans. For instance, in Saturday's letter he criticized the Supreme Court decision against minority set-asides, saying the court "has placed its judicial imprimatur in a resuscitation of separate but unequal treatment for black citizens."
He was also highly critical of congressional Republicans' "Contract with America," saying it signaled an intensification of hostility, racism and indifference to the socio-economic and educational needs of racial minorities and the poor.
In the early 1980s, he was instrumental in leading a predominately black boycott of the Baltimore Sun after a series of articles appeared in The Evening Sun that dealt with single parent families.
His wife said his prolific writing and strong opinions about education were fueled by "his care and concern for children. He believed in education. It was uppermost in his thoughts. He loved children."
Dr. Banks was educated in the Norfolk, Va., school system, received his undergraduate degree from Howard University in Washington and his doctorate in education from American University, also in Washington.
He began his career more than three decades ago, teaching social studies for Baltimore schools.
A national leader in social studies curriculum, he was a president of the Association for the Study of Afro-American History and Life, the organization that founded Black History Week.
He was also a member of the NAACP and was active in his
church, Walker Memorial Baptist Church in Washington.
In addition to his wife of 38 years, he is survived by two daughters, Gayle Banks Jones of Bowie, Allison Banks Holmes of Upper Marlboro and three grandchildren.
B6 Funeral arrangements were incomplete this morning.