Horace Hugh Ashby Jr., a retired educator who was known for his stern but compassionate nature, died of a stroke Thursday at Sinai Hospital. The longtime Catonsville resident was 74.
Dr. Ashby was born in Baltimore and raised on Harlem Avenue. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1951, he entered what is now Morgan State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1956.
In 1957, he earned a bachelor's degree in education from what is now Coppin State University, and in 1975 he earned a master's degree in education administration and supervision from Morgan State. He earned his doctorate in urban education in 1985 from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Dr. Ashby taught in the city school system for nine years while also owning and operating the Toyland Day Nursery School.
In 1967, he was the Republican candidate for president of the City Council, losing the race to veteran Councilman William Donald Schaefer.
He had been working as program coordinator for VISTA, responsible for coordinating activities of the Model Cities Agency with VISTA.
Dr. Ashby was program coordinator for the Baltimore Job Corps Skills Center that was operated by the Burroughs Corp. from 1968 until 1971, when he was named director of the Model Cities Economic Development Program.
He returned to city public schools in 1974, working as a regional specialist and assistant regional superintendent. He served as principal of four elementary schools before being named principal of Rock Glen Junior High, now West Baltimore Middle, in 1977.
Dr. Ashby inherited one of the most troubled schools in the city, one that suffered from racial conflict and low attendance.
He told The Sun at the time that his job was to "make the students so busy they won't have time to hate."
In an attempt to introduce a sense of civility to the school, Dr. Ashby ordered that "sophisticated FM music," both "classical and high-quality," be piped into the school's cafeteria, where "arrangements of artificial flowers" were placed on lunch tables.
In the article, The Sun described Dr. Ashby as a "powerful-looking man with a voice that can become sternly deep enough to command the respect of almost any student."
"He was stern and known for being tough but fair," said his wife, Francine Zachary, who retired from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, where she had been assistant dean.
"He had expectations and always believed that you had to do your best and make your best try," she said. "He liked working with people and being a mentor. He liked giving advice and guidance."
He spent the last three years of his career as principal of Mill Creek Towne Elementary School in Montgomery County. He retired in 1989.
In 1994, Dr. Ashby became an ordained Baptist minister at Sharon Baptist Church. He was the founder of the Gilmore Elementary Partnership between the church and Gilmore Elementary School.
He was an active member of the Baltimore chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and liked gardening and listening to jazz.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at his church, Presstman and Stricker streets.
Also surviving are a son, Anthony Phillip Ashby Sr. of Chantilly, Va.; a daughter, Stephanie Adell Roberts of Randallstown; a stepson, Eric Nathaniel Ailor of San Diego; and five grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Elsie Mobley ended in divorce.