Family, friends and those who respected him gathered on the UMES campus today to say their final good-byes to Dr. H. DeWayne Whittington, who died Nov. 20. He was 81.
Whittington was a pioneering educator-administrator for more than four decades who, after retiring in 1992, stayed active as a civic leader and volunteer.
When the legislature created the University System of Maryland in a realignment of public higher education, Whittington accepted an invitation in 1997 to serve as a charter member of the UMES Board of Visitors, the advisory panel to the university president. He also was a visiting lecturer at the university, served as a field experience director and as a member of UMES’ Upward Bound program’s advisory committee.
Whittington made history in 1988 when he was named Somerset County public schools’ superintendent, the first African-American of the modern era to hold that job. As a teacher, coach and administrator, he touched many lives and his funeral at the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts was attended by more than 500 mourners.
“He knew who he was. He stayed in his lane and he helped people along the way,” said the Rev. Alan Gould Sr., who delivered a moving eulogy. “Dr. Whittington was a friend to many. He was a friend and mentor to me.”
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture paid tribute to Whittington in 2007 by displaying his portrait in the Baltimore facility—another first for a lower Eastern Shore native. Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed him in January 2009 to the Somerset County Board of Education and he served on that policymaking panel until earlier this month.
Whittington graduated from Morgan State College in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He went on to earn his master’s in education from Pennsylvania State University and in 1980 he received his doctorate from Nova University.
The Rev. David Briddell, a college classmate who presided over Whittington’s marriage to Louise Holden on Nov. 30, 1957, traveled from Teaneck, N.J. to attend the funeral and offer words of condolence. He was among some two dozen clergy in the audience.
Whittington’s interests in public service extended beyond education.
He was chairman of the board of directors of SHORE Up! Inc., a private, non-profit agency in Salisbury that helps “people reach economic self-sufficiency.” He also served 45 years on the governing board of McCready Memorial Hospital in Crisfield, where he was born June 9, 1931.
Whittington held the distinction of being the first African-American to be appointed to the health care facility’s board and was among its longest-serving members when he left the panel in 2009. He was proud to lobby successfully in the 1960s for the integration of the hospital’s patient population and later the recruitment of minority doctors.
He was a life-long member of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Crisfield. When he was a boy, his pastor was the Rev. James A. Kiah, the twin brother of Thomas H. Kiah, the fifth principal of Princess Anne Academy that evolved into UMES.
Whittington served two years as an officer in the U.S. Army and also was a member of Crisfield’s Masonic Lodge of the Prince Hall Masons of Maryland, the Gideons International and Omega Psi Phi fraternity.