Omar V. Pulliam II

Retired Baltimore County high school foreign language teacher and election judge who was active in community theater

April 10, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen |

Omar V. Pulliam II, a retired Dulaney High School foreign language teacher and election judge who was active in area community theater productions, died Sunday of multiple organ failure at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The longtime Ruxton resident was 76.

Omar Vernice Pulliam II was born in Asheboro, N.C., and moved with his family in 1942 to Victory Villa in Essex.

He graduated from Kenwood High School in 1951 and served in the Army from 1954 to 1956.

Mr. Pulliam earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree from George Washington University.

He began his teaching career in the late 1950s at Sparrows Point High School. He subsequently taught at Middle River Junior High School and Kenwood High School.

Mr. Pulliam then joined the faculty of Dulaney High School, where he taught Spanish and French for more than two decades until retiring in the mid-1990s.

"I knew him during my entire 19 years at Dulaney, and he was a superb teacher," said retired Dulaney Principal Maynard E. Keadle. "He was very friendly and extremely well-liked, and I felt he gave the students an excellent foreign language program."

In addition to teaching, Mr. Pulliam had a love for the theater as an audience member and as a performer.

He had been a member of the Vagabonds, Baltimore Actors Guild, Theater Hopkins and The Fabulous Fifty-Plus Players, a Howard County acting troupe made up of actors who are ages 50 and older.

"His favorite roles were El Gallo in 'The Fantasticks' and Henry Higgins in 'My Fair Lady,' " said his daughter, Lucienne M. Pulliam of Claymont, Del. "In 1976, he appeared in a Bicentennial play that was staged at Fort McHenry."

Mr. Pulliam portrayed Cole Porter in The Fabulous Fifty-Plus Players' production of "Red, Hot and Cole" that was performed in 2002 at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City.

Ms. Pulliam said her father particularly enjoyed portraying composers Porter and Kurt Weill, who is perhaps best-known for his "Threepenny Opera."

"When I chat with seniors after, I've been told that I gave them encouragement," Mr. Pulliam told The Baltimore Sun in a 2002 interview.

"I do it for my health. The mental exercises in learning your lyrics and melody and choreography keep your mind keen," he said. "It's a mental, physical and emotional exercise, which I think is good for us all."

For nearly 50 years, Mr. Pulliam lent his rich baritone voice to church choirs, beginning with Orems United Methodist Church and later Perry Hall United Methodist Church and Loch Raven United Methodist Church.

For the past 20 years, he had been a member of Catonsville United Methodist Church, where he had been a soloist in the choir.

In addition to his interests in the arts and music, Mr. Pulliam had been a longtime Democratic election judge at Ridge Ruxton School in Towson.

He made headlines in 2002 when he asked the news media and the staff of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was then a Democratic candidate for governor, to leave the polling place, deeming them "disruptive."

As TV cameras rolled and reporters moved forward to watch Mrs. Townsend vote, an age-old Election Day tradition, Mr. Pulliam approached the group.

"Why do you want to cause this particular scene? I am asking you, why?" The Baltimore Sun quoted him at the time. "Now, all of you move over here or the police will be here to remove you."

He then admonished Mrs. Townsend, who had her back to the cameras and continued to cast her ballot.

The newspaper reported that he then "forcefully" said, "Kathleen, please do not vote. Do not vote."

Afterward, Mr. Pulliam explained that that what he was trying to do was "protect our turf," and that the cameras were disruptive to other voters.

Mr. Pulliam was a longtime fundraising volunteer with the public radio station WYPR-FM. Diagnosed with diabetes more than a decade ago, he volunteered as a speaker on late-life diabetes with the Maryland Department of Aging.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Mitchell-Wiedfeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road in Rodgers Forge.

Also surviving is a son, O. Patrick Pulliam of White Marsh; a sister, Sylvia Pulliam Lackey of Staunton, Va.; and his companion, Martha Lee Startt of Columbia. His marriage to the former Michelle Martin ended in divorce.

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