Houston Snowden, 70, teacher, student of his family history

December 06, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Houston Davis Snowden, a Baltimore public school teacher )) for 20 years who traced his family history back 200 years, died Monday of heart failure at Fort Howard Veterans Hospital.

Mr. Snowden, 70, of Northwest Baltimore began researching his family ancestry in 1977, interviewing scores of relatives and poring over records and documents in libraries and courthouses in Baltimore and Harper's Ferry, W.Va., where he grew up.

"He was basically a historian and loved tracing his family's roots," said Paul A. Smith, a former student of Mr. Snowden's at Carver Vocational Technical High School who later became his instructor's close friend.

L "He spent many hours doing it, and he did a good job at it."

Though he had to use a wheelchair in his retirement because of a spinal ailment, Mr. Snowden daily sought out sources and made countless trips to government buildings.

Mr. Smith said Mr. Snowden's efforts weren't merely busy work to occupy his retirement, but something he had planned for many years. He met many relatives for the first time during his research and, after the book was published, they held annual family reunions.

"He wanted to find the roots of his family," Mr. Smith said. "He thought it was important, not only to him but to everyone else in his family."

Mr. Snowden attended Storer College in West Virginia and Boston University before graduating from Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., in 1957. He did graduate work at the University of West Virginia, the University of Maryland and Morgan State University.

He was in the Army from 1946 to 1949 and again from 1950 to serving in World War II and the Korean War. He served as an X-ray technician and earned a World War II Victory Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Soldier Medal For Bravery.

Upon his discharge, he moved to Baltimore and taught at Hampstead Hill Junior High School until 1970 and then at Carver High until he retired in 1977.

As an English teacher, Mr. Snowden was known as stern but fair.

"He was considerate to the needs of children," said Gloria Johnson, who taught with Mr. Snowden for six years. "He always went the extra mile to reach the children. Always."

"He was very demanding, but he just wanted [the students] to understand that they can achieve anything," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Snowden was an avid painter. He also tutored high school students in his retirement.

He was an active member of many organizations, including the Disabled American Veterans Commanders Club.

Services are scheduled for today in Harper's Ferry, W.Va.

He is survived by a brother, John R. Snowden of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 12/06/97

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