Wilbur `Vib' Valentine, 89, city principal, UM regent

October 29, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Wilbur "Vib" Valentine, a retired Baltimore public school principal and former University of Maryland regent, died Oct. 22 of complications from a stroke at Franklin Square Hospital Center. He was 89.

The son of a Methodist minister, Mr. Valentine was born in Frederick County's Buckeystown and raised on North Carey Street in Baltimore. As a young man he worked at Schmidt Baking Co., but when he finished Douglass High School at 16, family members said he was so small that what was then Coppin Normal School made him sit out a year before accepting him into its teacher-training program.

They said that during that year, he had his tonsils removed and shortly thereafter grew to be more than 6 feet tall.

"Along with his height came a distinctively rich and authoritative voice that would signal his presence in any crowd," said his son, Courtney Grant Valentine of Baltimore.

Mr. Valentine joined the Baltimore City Department of Education in 1935 and began teaching at Samuel Coleridge Taylor Elementary School No. 122. His teaching was interrupted by his World War II service in the Army. He was stationed in Europe.

He was "a hands-on principal who greeted personally every child who entered his school," his son said yesterday. "Once when a parent returned with her suspended child and asked why the child had been sent home, my father said, `I didn't send him home. His unacceptable behavior sent him home.'"

Mr. Valentine's son recalled an incident years ago when he complained to one of his father's friends about a particular sticking point he had with his father -- and the impossibility of changing his father's opinion.

"Grant, you know your father's never wrong," the friend said.

After the war, Mr. Valentine returned to teaching and to Morgan State College, where he earned his bachelor's degree.

Family members said he took advantage of his GI educational benefits. And because of the state of Maryland's arrangement to keep African-American students out of the University of Maryland system by paying their tuition at out-of-state schools, he went to New York University and earned a master's degree in counseling.

"I didn't waste time on resentment," he told a Sun reporter last year. "There was nothing you could do about it at the time. [Segregation] was the law of the land. And when Brown [v. the Board of Education ruling] came along, we all wondered why it took so long."

He taught at Booker T. Washington Junior High School before being named vice principal of Cherry Hill Elementary School. In 1961, he and his wife moved with their son to Hawaii for a year's sabbatical study at the University of Hawaii. The next year he became principal of School No. 1 at Greene and Fayette streets.

"The kids loved him," said Rosetta Stith, director of the Laurence G. Paquin Middle-High School, who formerly was a teacher on his staff.

"He set the tone for the school. Everybody in the neighborhood knew who he was," she said. "He was tall. He had good looks and could have been Cab Calloway's brother. And he had a walk. It was like John Wayne. Not only did he stand at the school door every morning, he was there every afternoon, too."

Mr. Valentine retired from the Baltimore school system in 1976 as principal of School 122, where he had begun his teaching career.

Upon his retirement, then-Gov. Marvin Mandel appointed him to serve a term as a University of Maryland regent -- the same institution that once barred him.

Mr. Valentine was a founding member of the No Name Club, a group of educators who stuck together. He and his friends enjoyed socializing, discussing politics and following sports teams.

He also enjoyed travel and spending time at his Morgan Park home, where he cooked Maryland dishes. He moved to Oak Crest Village five years ago.

Hs wife of 54 years, Courtney Hughes Carter, a special-education teacher, died in 1996.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his son, survivors include nieces and nephews.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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