Roy W. Cragway Sr., 76, Douglass athletic head

August 24, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Roy Winston Cragway Sr., a former longtime Douglass High School athletic director and coach, died of pneumonia Thursday at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Morgan Park resident was 76.

Mr. Cragway was born and raised in a home on J Street in Sparrows Point, where his father, Royal James Cragway, was a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point shipyard.

"I had a truly fantastic childhood on Sparrows Point. I was athletically inclined, and just about everything we did as children had something to do with athletics," he told Louis S. Diggs, author of From the Meadows to the Point, an oral history of the African-American communities of Turners Station and Sparrows Point.

Mr. Cragway was a member of a black touch football team that would go to the white side of Sparrows Point to play teams there. After a white family, the Cohills, established a football league at the Sparrows Point Country Club, he was invited to play.

"On Saturdays, they would have games against other communities throughout the county. They would invite me to play with their team because I played pretty good, and being light- complexioned, I was able to play with them. I learned a lot from playing organized sports with the Cohills team," he said.

After graduating from the Bragg School on Sparrows Point in 1945, Mr. Cragway enrolled at what was then Morgan State College.

"I was able to make first string on the football team there, and had the highest academic average of the senior athletes in 1949 when I graduated from Morgan," he said in the oral history. "I was co-captain of the 1948 football team. I started school majoring in mathematics but ended up majoring in health and physical education."

While at Morgan, he was named a black college All-American by the Central Collegiate Athletic Association in 1948.

A cum laude graduate of Morgan, Mr. Cragway earned a master's degree in 1950 from Teachers College at Columbia University. From 1950 to 1952, he served with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. Wounded in combat, he earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

After working for a year as a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel, he began his career in education teaching health and physical education at Fairmont Hills Junior High School in 1953.

In 1955, he went to Douglass High School. There, during his nearly three-decade tenure, he taught physical education and was later department head, coached football and basketball and ended his career in 1981 as athletic director.

Two of his students went on to play professional football: Raymond Chester played for the Colts and Oakland Raiders, and Albert Johnson was a Houston Oiler.

Other Douglass graduates who had noteworthy athletic careers at Morgan included Carmine "Pete" Pompey Jr., Ben Eaton and Earl Bowens.

"I got to know him when I went to Douglass in 1973, and he was the most gifted person I've ever had dealings with in education. He was personable, knowledgeable and always on top of things," said Jessica Ivey, coordinator specialist for physical education for Baltimore public schools. "He could lead teachers, coaches and students on a professional level and on a personal level when he had to."

Ms. Ivey recalled that he was the athletic director when she came to Douglass and that everyone called him "The Chief."

"He was respected throughout the system. He was easygoing but firm and to the point when you had it wrong. And he never held grudges. That word wasn't in his vocabulary," she said.

"As a coach, he was well-organized and no-nonsense. He was a stern disciplinarian, and his teams were well-prepared year in and year out," said Bob Wade, former Dunbar coach and athletic director, now coordinator of athletics for city public schools. "He was the ... guy who made things go."

Mr. Pompey, former Edmondson High School football and basketball coach, credits Mr. Cragway with being a major influence on his career.

"The things I learned about being a coach, I learned from him. He always said pay attention to the details, put in lots of hard work, and that students who wanted to play spots had to be scholastically sound in order to participate in the athletic program. That went a long way with me," Mr. Pompey said yesterday.

Mr. Cragway was a 52-year member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and its Baltimore Pi Omega chapter.

"This fraternity is based on community service, and he was active in the Omega Academy that mentors young blacks from ages 8 to 14," said Charles A. Downs Jr., president of the local chapter. "He was a very friendly and approachable man who others listened to whenever he spoke."

Mr. Cragway was an avid golfer and charter member of the Glenwood Country Club and the Colonial Golf Club. He was a member of the First Saturday Nighters, a social club.

He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Morgan Park Improvement Association and Disabled American Veterans.

A wake will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, followed by services at 11:30 a.m. , at Morgan State University Christian Center.

Mr. Cragway is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Wilhelmina Reid, a retired physical education teacher; two sons, Dr. Roy Winston Cragway Jr. of Ocean City and Robert Reid Cragway Sr. of Baltimore; two sisters, Rose Adams and Alberta Cragway, both of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

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