Leonard H.O. Spearman Sr.; Ambassador and Educator

Leonard Spearman headed Texas Southern University.
Leonard Spearman headed Texas Southern University. (Family - Family)
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Monday, February 4, 2008

Leonard H.O. Spearman Sr., 78, a president of Texas Southern University in the early 1980s who served as ambassador to two African countries and later headed an advisory board to historically black colleges, died Jan. 16 at Oakmont nursing home in Katy, Tex., after a stroke.

From 2001 to 2005, Dr. Spearman was executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He was the first former president of a historically black school -- Texas Southern in Houston -- to hold the position.

He served as U.S. ambassador to Rwanda and Lesotho during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Leonard Hall O'Connell Spearman Sr. was a native of Tallahassee, Fla., and a 1947 graduate of what is now Florida A&M University, where he played cornet in a band that included saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley.

At the University of Michigan, he received a master's degree (1950) and a doctorate (1960) in clinical psychology.

He was a psychology professor and a dean at Southern University in Baton Rouge before moving to Washington in 1970 to work for the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

He spent nine years at HEW, helping shape the educational opportunity programs for disadvantaged students as well as federal student loan programs.

After leaving his ambassadorial posts, he taught educational administration at Texas Southern until 1998 and then spent eight years at Baltimore's Coppin State University as director of the school's renewable energy initiatives.

From 1993 to 2001, he chaired Rural Electrification for African Development, a nonprofit organization advocating solar technology in African villages.

He was a trustee with the Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington and wrote and lectured widely on the education of minorities.

Dr. Spearman was honored for his work in education and public service by the National Council of Negro Women and other groups.

He was a member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, his city of residence until moving to Katy in 2006.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Valeria Benbow Spearman of Katy; three children, Lynn Dickerson of Baton Rouge, Leonard H.O. Spearman Jr. of Katy and Charles M. Spearman of Alexandria; a brother, Rawn W. Spearman Sr. of Virginia Beach; two sisters, Olivia Parker of Washington and Agenoria Paschal of Miami; and seven grandchildren.

-- Adam Bernstein

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