Emma Bright, 93, principal of city elementary schools

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

Emma G. Bright, a retired city public school principal active in numerous civic groups, died of a stroke Dec. 21 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The Bare Hills resident was 93.

Born Emma Gaskin in Smethport, Pa., she wanted to attend Howard University but could not afford the tuition because her father, a barber, had two other daughters in school at the time. She moved to Baltimore, where her mother had been an educator, and enrolled at what is now Coppin State University. She began teaching at the old Harriet B. Stowe School on Argyle Avenue, where she was later principal.

In the 1940s, she earned a bachelor of arts degree at what is now Morgan State University. Because African-Americans were not allowed to attended Maryland graduate schools, Mrs. Bright spent summers in New York, where she earned a master's degree in education at New York University.

In the late 1950s, Mrs. Bright, then a principal, was selected to open the newly constructed Edgewood Elementary School in Walbrook. She held the same post at Pimlico Elementary School during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

"She had a teacher who objected to the phrase `equal justice for all' in the Pledge of Allegiance," said her sister, Gladys G. Reed of Bare Hills. "She showed him the book of rules."

Mrs. Bright retired in 1974 as principal of Hilton Elementary School.

"She was a stickler for correctness," said Betty Williams, a retired educator and close friend. "You had to get every detail exactly right, be it in grammar or in a church program."

Mrs. Bright joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1942 and was later president of the Baltimore graduate chapter. She supported YWCA and belonged to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

She also was a past board member of the Red Cross of Central Maryland and the Pickersgill retirement community.

She was a past president of the Northeasterners, a social club, and belonged to Needles and Pins, a sewing group.

Mrs. Bright lived for many years on Druid Hill Avenue and in Ashburton, and spent summers at a home she built in the Bare Hills section of Baltimore County in 1959. She was living there year-round at the time of her death.

"We have to keep our eyes and ears open as to what developers plan to do," she told a Sun reporter in 1999 in an account of the Bare Hills community.

For 40 years, Mrs. Bright visited Martha's Vineyard, Mass. She also traveled overseas.

Friends said that Mrs. Bright did needlework, including crewel and knitting. She was also a Baltimore Opera subscriber.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Grace Presbyterian Church, 2604 Banister Road, which she joined in 1932 and where she had been a Sunday school teacher and superintendent.

In addition to her sister, survivors include four nephews, Crafton C. Reed III and Orlo G. Reed of Bare Hills, Dr. Elwood E. Brooks in Cincinnati and Maxwell R. Brooks of Glen Burnie; and two nieces, Dr. Rehema B. Gray of Los Angeles and Dr. Judith B. Smith of Baltimore. Her husband of 43 years, Marshall Travis Bright Sr., a postal worker, city elections judge and NAACP official, died in 1991.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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