Edgar `Tommi' White, 86, Baltimore principal

January 13, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Edgar Thomasine White, a teacher and school principal for nearly 50 years, died Monday of cardiac arrest at Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown. She was 86.

Her career and commitment to education spanned several states and cities. She helped bring a formal social studies program to the Baltimore public school system. She also did innovative work in the field of special education.

In 1981, she retired as principal at Edgecombe Circle Elementary School. But she remained active in retirement.

"On Monday, she was busier than ever working on her to-do list," said a daughter, Courtney Michele White-Brown of Baltimore. "She was just busy with her personal philosophy of that if you plan and practice, you can rise to the occasion."

Born in Surry County, Va., she wanted to follow in the footsteps of other family members and became a teacher.

Mrs. White, known as "Tommi," graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the former Miners Teachers College in Washington, D.C. In 1951, she earned a master's degree from New York University in educational psychology with a minor in special education.

In 1953, she married Dr. Eric L. White, who would become a popular Baltimore pediatrician. They were married for 47 years until Dr. White's death in 2000.

During her career in education, Mrs. White also studied at George Washington University, Salve Regina College, Rhode Island College of Education, Loyola College, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.

Mrs. White taught from 1934 to 1965 in schools in Surry and Nottoway counties in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Newport, R.I.; and Baltimore.

During that time, she also worked as a statistical clerk for the federal Census Bureau and as assistant librarian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From 1955 to 1957, she was a clinical psychologist at Howard University College of Medicine.

Mrs. White was appointed assistant principal at Edgecombe Circle Elementary School in 1970. "She was a mentor and friend," said Joe E. Wilson, principal of Edmondson Heights Elementary School in Baltimore County. "She was 86 and going strong, indomitable. She was always starting initiatives and had a wonderful intellect."

A strong advocate for socially and mentally challenged students, Mrs. White headed local professional workshops where she taught classroom techniques to better reach challenged students and worked with a citywide committee to develop an arithmetic guide for use in special education.

She was a member and active elder of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church in West Baltimore. She served with numerous other charitable, social and civic organizations.

Mrs. White was also a Golden Soror, a 50-year member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Epsilon Omega Chapter.

A memorial service was held yesterday at Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church.

She is also survived by another daughter, Juli-Anna Shumake of Abingdon; a sister, Elizabeth T. Bebbs of Baltimore; four grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and several nephews and cousins.

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