Joel A. Carrington, city school administrator, dies

His distinguished career as an educator spanned four decades and he served as UM regent

  • Joel Carrington, shown in 2004
Joel Carrington, shown in 2004 (ANDRé F. CHUNG )
March 15, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Joel A. Carrington, a former Baltimore public school educator and administrator who later served as a University of Maryland regent, died March 2 of cancer at Atrium Village, an Owings Mills assisted-living facility.

The Owings Mills resident was 86.

The son of a postal worker and a school teacher, Dr. Carrington was born in Marshal, Texas, and raised in Houston, where he graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1940.

In 1943, at the beginning of his third year at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, a historically black university, he was drafted into the Army.

Attaining the rank of sergeant, Dr. Carrington served with the 1342nd Unit, Fort Holabird Signal Depot.

After World War II ended, Dr. Carrington enrolled at Howard University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1948.

He later earned a master's degree in education in 1954 from the Johns Hopkins University, and his doctorate in education in 1970 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Carrington began teaching history in 1948 at Dunbar High School and later became social studies department head.

In 1965, he was named special assistant at Herring Run Junior High School and then four years later was appointed assistant principal at Northern High School.

Dr. Carrington became principal of Walbrook High School in 1970, a position he held for a year until being named assistant superintendent for secondary education in 1971 by then-Superintendent Roland N. Patterson.

In 1973, he was promoted to head Region 4, which included 20 schools, in what The Evening Sun described at the time as being "a cluster of schools in a 2 to 1 white, Northeast Baltimore."

Dr. Carrington told the newspaper that he'd be looking for "common denominators" that would unite diverse interest groups.

"When you probe beneath color to find differences you find those qualities which exist in all human beings — the same needs, hopes and the fulfillment that everyone wants in this life," he said.

He explained as far as he was concerned that he was not looking on his new assignment as "black and white."

He told The Evening Sun that he found "human beings who are interested in their youngsters, who want them to be successful and who are willing to work to achieve this."

"Joel was very well thought of, and people still speak well of him. His death is a great loss to education, and he was dedicated right to the end," said Samuel R. Billups, a former city school administrator whose friendship dated to when they worked together at Herring Run Junior High School.

"He provided us with many opportunities, and he was one of the most devoted educators I've ever met."

"He was very detailed-oriented when it came to problems, always did the necessary follow-up and was very convincing in his conversation. He made many wonderful contributions," said Dr. Billups, who lives in Mount Washington. "Even though we no longer had active roles with the system, we both remained concerned and would talk about ideas."

He left city schools in 1983 and served on the Maryland Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority, Health Care Cost Containment Committee and the University of Maryland College of Education Board of Visitors.

In 1984, Dr. Carrington was appointed to the University of Maryland Board of Regents by Gov. Harry R. Hughes to fill the unexpired term of Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., who had died that March. He was reappointed in 1987 by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

He also served on the Chancellor's Commission of the University of Maryland, the Colonnade Society of the University of Maryland and the Center for Social Organization of Schools at the Johns Hopkins University.

He had been a board member of the Jimmie D. Swartz Foundation and the Maryland Interfaith Study Group.

Dr. Carrington's 1970 dissertation, "The History of Desegregation in the Baltimore City Public Schools: 1952-1966," has been hailed by historians as being one of the few detailed studies of the fledgling years of desegregation of Baltimore public schools.

"The Brown decision merely gave impetus to a movement which already had begun," Dr. Carrington told The Baltimore Sun in 2004, on the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education.

"We thought Baltimore showed a willingness to move forward; of course, they did it in a very small way," he said. "They thought by eliminating the designation of race that you could automatically integrate schools. It seemed hopeful."

Dr. Carrington was an active member of Sigma Pi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternities.

He was a longtime active member of Union Baptist Church, where he had been a member of the board, Helping Hand Circle and youth mentoring activities.

"He was still going out to schools and on the street trying to get young men in our youth mentoring program," said Dr. Billups, who is also an active member of Union Baptist Church.

Dr. Carrington was an avid reader, world traveler, and bridge and pinochle player.

His wife of 43 years, the former Vera Handy, who had been principal of Guilford Elementary School, died in 1990.

Services were held at his church March 8.

Survivors include his wife of 12 years, the former Gloria Hagan; a daughter, Patricia C. Warner of Ellicott City; and three grandchildren.

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