Bernice B. Brandon, 88, educator, administrator

January 20, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Bernice B. Brandon, a retired Baltimore public school educator and former administrator of the old Barrett School for Girls, died Saturday from complications of a stroke at Ridgeway Manor Nursing Home in Catonsville. She was 88.

A longtime resident of Nortonia Road in Northwest Baltimore, Mrs. Brandon retired in 1974 from Lafayette Elementary School, where she had taught fourth grade since 1968.

She served on the faculty of John H. Murphy Elementary School from 1958 until 1968.

"She was a very, very good teacher, and students and faculty alike greatly admired her," said Edna G. Randolph, a friend of 50 years and fellow teacher. "She did all she could to help the students who were entrusted to her."

From 1953 until 1956, she was administrator of the Barrett School for Girls, formerly the Maryland Training School for Colored Girls in Glen Burnie. In 1959, the segregated school merged with Montrose School for Girls in Reisterstown, after then-Friendship Airport took over the Barrett School site for runway expansion.

One of her accomplishments there, said family members, was creating an academic curriculum for students who were mainly taught vocational skills.

"Her curriculum was later approved and adopted by all state juvenile schools," said her daughter, Peggy Brandon Brown of Northwest Baltimore.

Mrs. Brandon was described by her daughter as a "quiet, gentle and thoughtful person who had great inner strength."

Because she was considered a role model for new teachers, Mrs. Brandon was often selected to work as a "buddy teacher" with student and newly hired teachers, Mrs. Brown said.

Born Bernice Bias, she was the daughter of John Henry Bias, president of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University.

"She was born one of seven children who all later grew up to become educators and principals. Education was always a priority in their lives," Mrs. Brown said.

Growing up on a college campus afforded Mrs. Brandon the opportunity to meet interesting people. One she remembered was George Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institute's famed scientist, agronomist and humanitarian, who visited and worked with her father.

"She said on his visits to their home, Dr. Carver always arrived carrying a black leather bag," said Mrs. Brown. "They would then sit for hours in the front parlor while Dr. Carver discussed his latest experiments and things they would be working on together at Shaw University Medical School, which is no longer a part of Shaw University."

Mrs. Brandon earned her bachelor's degree from Howard University and a master's degree in education from Columbia University. She was married in 1937 to Donald G. Brandon, who taught geography at what now is Morgan State University for 40 years and was one of the first blacks in the nation to earn a doctorate in geography. He died in 1991.

In her retirement, Mrs. Brandon was a co-owner and manager of Bias Shores, a family owned resort in Duck, N.C., where she spent her summers and enjoyed saltwater fishing.

Mrs. Brandon was a member for 50 years of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Urban League, Retired Teachers Association of America, John H. Bias Alumni Chapter of Elizabeth City State University and Jack and Jill of America.

She enjoyed playing bridge and was a member of the Tally-Ups, a bridge club. She was also an active member of the Morgan State University Faculty Wives Association and Enon Baptist Church, where she had been a deaconess.

Services will be held at 11: 30 a.m. today at Nutter Funeral Home, 2501 Gwynns Falls Parkway, Baltimore.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Brandon is survived by two sisters, Elizabeth Bias Cofield and Lillian Bias Abron, both of Raleigh, N.C.; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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