Richard Thornton, 66, worked three decades for city schools

July 21, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Richard Thornton, a Baltimore public school administrator whose desire for each child to "be someone special" carried through a career in education that lasted more than 30 years, died Tuesday at Mercy Medical Center of a heart attack. He was 66.

Mr. Thornton began his career in 1959 as a history instructor at the former school No. 91 in West Baltimore. He taught at Southwestern High School in 1978, and was assistant principal at Harlem Park Middle School in West Baltimore from 1979 to 1993.

"He just loved kids," said his wife, the former Shirley Stanley of Northwest Baltimore, whom he married in 1954. "He liked the idea of trying to take a kid and make something special of him or her."

Mr. Thornton was respected by the youngsters at the schools where he worked.

"He was quiet but very firm," said Gloria Johnson, who taught for 10 years at Harlem Park during Mr. Thornton's tenure. "All he had to do was walk down the halls and they'd [students] straighten up."

Friends and colleagues said Mr. Thornton enjoyed and was successful working with inner city youths because their upbringing and his were similar.

A native of Northwest Baltimore, Mr. Thornton graduated from Douglass High School in 1948. He worked for the post office for two years and was in the Army from 1951 to 1953.

He attended Howard University in Washington and graduated from what was then Morgan State College in 1958. He lived in the Hanlon Park community.

When Mr. Thornton wasn't in school, his wife said, he was probably on the golf course.

"Every time the sun shined, he was on the golf course," said Mrs. Thornton.

"Until the ground froze and was snow-covered, he'd be on the golf course. He used to put on his long johns and play."

Although Mr. Thornton played golf for more than 30 years, Mrs. Thornton never accompanied him. "That was his little corner of the world," she said.

Services will be held at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow at Nutter and Sons Funeral Home, 2501 Gwynn Falls Parkway in West Baltimore.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Richard Thornton Jr.; a daughter-in-law, Denise Thornton; two grandchildren, Melanie Thornton and Bryan Thornton; a great-grandchild, Brittany Thornton; and many nephews and nieces. All are of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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