Samuel P. Massie, 85, Naval Academy teacher

April 15, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Samuel P. Massie, the U.S. Naval Academy's first African-American faculty member, died of complications of dementia Sunday at Mariner Health Care of Greater Laurel. The Laurel resident was 85.

By the time he joined the Naval Academy's faculty in 1966 as a professor of chemistry, Dr. Massie was a nationally recognized pioneer among black scientists and educators and he taught his students in Annapolis as much about life as he did about his subject.

Born in North Little Rock, Ark., he graduated from high school at 13. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a master's degree from Fisk University in Nashville and a doctorate from Iowa State University, where he contributed to uranium studies related to atomic bomb research.

Dr. Massie held chemistry department chairmanships at Fisk, Langston University in Oklahoma and Howard University in Washington, D.C. Immediately before coming to the academy, he had been president of North Carolina College at Durham.

"Professor Massie was a legendary educator whose lectures were renowned for their clarity and precision," Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent, said yesterday. "He was an inspiration to decades of midshipmen."

According to a 1994 article in The Sun, when Dr. Massie arrived in Annapolis, he was unable to buy a home in the city's white residential neighborhoods. So he moved his family to Laurel and commuted to work.

The article said that Dr. Massie interspersed his chemistry lectures with life stories.

Dr. Massie co-founded the academy's black studies program and was a role model especially for black midshipmen, the article said.

Working with two Naval Academy students and Walter Reed Army Institute researchers, he was awarded a patent for antibacterial agents effective in fighting gonorrhea. He was the author of a scientific paper on phenothiazine, a class of drug used to treat mental disorders.

Dr. Massie spent his summers at the old David Taylor naval research center in Annapolis in such work as analyses of waters deposited by ships docking at marine facilities, and chemicals used to prevent barnacles on ships, among other topics.

He was chairman of the Maryland State Board of Community Colleges from 1968 to 1989.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Energy and a coalition of Fortune 500 companies and nine historically black colleges and universities combined to establish the DOE Samuel P. Massie Chairs of Excellence Professorship in the Environmental Disciplines in schools of engineering at the nine schools.

In 1994, the Annapolis chapter of the National Naval Officers Association established an endowment in his name to provide scholarships to women, minorities and economically disadvantaged Anne Arundel County students studying math, science, engineering or health care at Maryland colleges and universities.

Services will be held at 6 p.m. today at the Naval Academy Chapel.

In addition to his son, survivors include two other sons, Herbert P. Massie of Laurel and James P. Massie of Little Rock, Ark.; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. His wife of 57 years, the former Gloria Thompkins, a retired psychology professor at Bowie State University and social editor for Jet magazine, died in January.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.