David A. Echols, 95, helped found Carver school

March 07, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

David Alexander Echols Sr., who helped establish what now is Carver Vocational-Technical High School in West Baltimore, died of cancer Saturday at the Stella Maris Hospice Unit at Mercy Medical Center. He was 95 and lived in Baltimore.

Born in Atlanta, he moved to Hampton (Va.) Institute when his mother accepted a job in the residence of the school's president. In 1923, he received a certificate in automotive mechanics from the institute -- now Hampton University -- and went to work in a filling station in New Jersey.

There, he was recruited by Joseph C. Briscoe, an administrator in Baltimore's Division of Colored Schools, who was setting up a vocational school for black students.

In 1925, Mr. Echols started teaching automotive theory at the Colored Boys Vocational School at Carrollton and Lafayette avenues.

He also coached softball at the school that evolved into Carver, which opened in 1955 at Bentalou and Presstman streets.

The late Dr. Samuel Banks, a longtime city educator who taught with Mr. Echols at Carver, wrote of him: "He possesses an intense desire and ambition to cultivate excellence in students far beyond automobile mechanics in which he served as a master teacher. He wanted his students to have both academic and vocational competence and to demonstrate the ability to cope and make their way in the world."

Said his son, David A. Echols Jr. of Baltimore: "He touched innumerable lives -- both staff and students. He showed them what it was to be a loving family man, an outstanding teacher, a capable softball coach, a wise counselor and a worthy role model of those whose paths crossed his."

His son said Mr. Echols' concern for his students went beyond school -- and he often hired them to do jobs around his house and taught them how to swim.

"These were mostly poor children and he was always lending them money and pretended to write it down in a little black book, but he had no intention of collecting it.

"He taught many of them how to swim at a beach near the old Glenn L. Martin hangar in Middle River. He'd buy a bag of doughnuts for 25 cents and then pack up the car with the kids," his son said.

Mr. Echols retired from Carver in 1971, several years after the mandatory retirement age. "No one bothered to check and he kept on going," the son recalled.

He was an original member of the EDUCO Club and the Craftsman, a group of black industrial science teachers.

He was a member of Douglas Memorial Community Church, Madison and Lafayette avenues, where services will be held at noon tomorrow.

His wife, the former Evelyn D. Barbour, whom he married in 1926, died last year. Other survivors include three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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