Richard Holley, city middle school principal, dies

Calverton Middle School principal spent 32 years in education and was a Grove Park neighborhood official

April 23, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Richard Holley, a retired city middle school principal who became an advocate for Frederick Douglass High School, died of cancer April 19 at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 74 and lived in Northwest Baltimore.

Born in Baltimore and raised in the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, he attended the Coppin Demonstration School and Booker T. Washington Junior High and was a 1953 graduate of Douglass High School.

He earned a degree in Spanish from Morgan State College and his master's degree from Towson University. While a student at Morgan, he was a member of the school's ROTC program and the Persian Rifles.

Mr. Holley became a French teacher in Baltimore City public schools and taught at Hampstead Hill Elementary, Garrison Junior High and Lake Clifton High before being named assistant principal at Lemmel Middle. In 1980, he became principal of Calverton Middle School and held the post until retiring in 1990.

"My husband believed that the community could always be improved by its residents," said his wife of more than 50 years, the former Louise Davis. "He worked diligently in his home community of Grove Park. Richard always wanted to make the world a better place."

Mr. Holley belonged to the Grove Park Community Association for 47 years. He assisted with the neighborhood watch program and over the years he fought a radio tower and a townhouse development. He also worked to get Grove Park students admitted to Falstaff Middle, where he felt they would receive a better education.

He reorganized a Cub Scout troop in his neighborhood and worked with Hopkins lacrosse officials to have the game taught and popularized among city public school students. He also believed that youth sports helped children. He worked with the Forest Park Little League for many years, where he was a coach and helped organize its seasons.

"He was always trying to expand his goals, include more people and improve what he thought needed improving," his wife said.

Mr. Holley also worked for his high school, Frederick Douglass, becoming chairman of the Governance Board of the Alumni Association.

"He had gotten an excellent education from Douglass, and he wanted the current students to have that same opportunity," his wife said. "He worked long hours with other civic-minded people to try to make a difference for young people and their education. During this time, he tutored and mentored young people because he wanted them to have support from people outside of the family unit."

Last year, Mr. Holley was part of the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood group that raised $10,000 for Douglass.

"He agonized over that school," said Earl Arnett, who produced the event with his wife, jazz singer Ethel Ennis, and other musicians. "He worried about it and had a passionate involvement with the school. He did not retreat on issues like this."

Mr. Arnett recalled his friend as a "down to earth, friendly, intelligent man who was blessed with the common touch."

Family members said studying the Bible was important to him and he belonged to a study group.

He and his wife enjoyed travel. On their trips, he played golf while she would go to the beach. Later they would get together and have dinner and attend a show.

Services were held Friday at St. Timothy's Christian Baptist Church, where he was a longtime member.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Kenneth Richard Holley of Atlanta, Kevin Lewis Holley of Bowie and Timothy Christopher Holley of Spencerville; a brother, Herbert Holley of Baltimore; a sister, Nancy Nichols of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.

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