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Shirley O. Brown, 89; Educator and Union Leader

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By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shirley O'Donnell Brown, 89, an administrator at several District high schools who later was president of the union representing school officials, died June 7 at Washington Hospital Center of injuries suffered that day in an automobile accident. He lived in Hyattsville.

He was a passenger in a car that hit a curb and overturned at Underwood Street and Piney Branch Road in Northwest Washington.

Dr. Brown, who was also active in community affairs, was the first African American president of the Kiwanis Club of Capitol Hill, of which he had been a member for 35 years.

A product of D.C. public schools, Dr. Brown began working in the school system in the 1950s. He served as a counselor, teacher and vice principal at several schools, including Francis and Langley junior high schools and Eastern and Cardozo high schools.

He had a reputation for being firm, frank and friendly and was loved by his students, his family said.

He retired as principal of Roosevelt High School, where he worked from 1968 to 1974, but never stopped working with youths. "He believed in mentoring the young people," said a daughter, Janet B. Cole of Annapolis.

Born in Washington, the eldest of four sons, Dr. Brown graduated from Armstrong High School, where he played football, and Miner Teachers College. In 1944, he was drafted into the Navy and served as a machinist first class at the Washington Navy Yard.

After leaving the principal's office, he remained a leader in D.C. education. For 14 years, he led the Council of School Officers, Local No. 4 of the AFL-CIO, a union of principals and assistant principals. He also was a commissioner with the D.C. Education Licensure Commission, president of the Educators Club of Greater Washington and vice president of the Middle States Association evaluation committees and the D.C. Association for Counseling and Development.

He also worked with AARP and at the time of his death was first vice president of the Brookland/Woodridge chapter.

He was a past president of the board of directors of the Boys Club of Greater Washington and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He had leadership roles in the Great Books Foundation and Junior Citizens Corp. He was a member of the D.C. Association of Adult Development and Aging.

He attended Shiloh Baptist Church and Turner Memorial AME Church, both in Washington.

Dr. Brown loved playing jazz piano, dancing, golfing and playing chess. He taught himself to speak Spanish and French. He also received a doctorate in education from California Coast University in 1980.

His wife of 28 years, Thelma Clomax Brown, died in 1966.

His second wife, Ethel "Winnie" T. Eldridge Brown, died in 2002.

In addition to his daughter, from his first marriage, survivors include two other children from his first marriage, Aldus W. Brown of Philadelphia and Alvin O. Brown of Hyattsville; two stepsons from his second marriage, Earle Eldridge of the District and Louis Eldridge of Cary, N.C.; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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