Sterling Allen Brown, 87, a poet and retired professor of English at Howard University who was named poet laureate of the District of Columbia in 1984, died of leukemia Jan. 13 at Heritage Health Care Center in Takoma Park. Mr. Brown was born in Washington and spent much of his boyhood at Howard University, where his father taught at the school of religion. There he was exposed to a host of intellectual talents including his neighbor, the great poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. He also learned about the black leader, journalist and statesman Frederick Douglass, and the black historian and educator W.E.B. Dubois. As a student, his favorite poets were Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg. He saw literature as popular art and framed his own poetry as stories, work songs and strains of the blues that depicted the diversity of black American life. Mr. Brown began his teaching career at the Virginia Theological Seminary and College in 1923. He later taught at Lincoln University in Missouri and Fisk University in Tennessee before he joined the staff at Howard, where he taught from 1929 until he retired in 1969. During his 40 years in Howard's classrooms, he became known as a "red ink man" because he covered his students' papers with critical red marks. He also learned from his students, collecting from them many of the black folk songs, sayings and local lore that were the basis for some of his writings. His students included actor Ossie Davis and psychologist Kenneth B. Clark. Mr. Brown may be best remembered for his poetry of the late 1960s and the early 1970s, when black poetry was experiencing a rebirth of spirit and power and many young poets looked to him for influence and guidance. His poetry, steeped in black folk verse, was especially attractive to writers who wanted to reinforce their blackness. He had the ability to take the simple and emotionally direct language of the poor and make it viable verse for everyone. In "Strong Men," he wrote: They dragged you from homeland They chained you in coffles, They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches, They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease . . . And: One thing they cannot prohibit -- The strong men . . . coming on The strong men gittin' stronger. Strong men . . . Stronger . . . . During the 1970s, after years of neglect, Mr. Brown's career took an upturn. In 1979 the D.C. Council declared his birthday, May 1, Sterling A. Brown Day. In 1984 he was named the city's poet laureate. "I've been rediscovered, reinstituted, regenerated and recovered," he said in a 1979 interview with The Washington Post. Mr. Brown graduated from Dunbar High School. He received his undergraduate degree from Williams College and a master's degree in English from Harvard University. He also had received 14 honorary degrees. He became a specialist on blacks in American literature and reigned for many years as America's dean of contemporary Afro-American poetry. Mr. Brown had been a visiting professor at Atlanta University, Vassar College, the University of Minnesota, New York University and the University of Illinois. He won the Opportunity Prize Literary Contest in the 1920s and Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in the early 1980s. His books include "Outline of Poetry by American Negroes," published in 1931; "The Negro Caravan," published in 1941, and "Collected Poems," published in 1980. His wife of 52 years, Daisy Turnbull Brown, died in 1979. Survivors include a son, John Dennis of Silver Spring; a sister, Elsie B. Smith of Landover Hills, and four grandchildren. LeROY G. KERNEY NIH Chaplains Chief LeRoy G. Kerney, 66, who had been chief of chaplains at the National Institutes of Health since 1963 who also was a past national president of the College of Chaplains, died of a heart ailment Jan. 13 at his home in Rockville. He also had been an associate pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville since the early 1980s and a member of the church for the past 25 years. The Rev. Kerney was a 1945 graduate of Westmar College in his native Iowa and received a divinity degree from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Naperville, Ill. He also received a master's degree in religion from the University of Chicago. From 1948 to 1956, he was a Presbyterian church pastor hospital chaplain in Illinois. From 1956 until moving here in 1963, he was pastoral care professor at the Institute of Religion at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The Rev. Kerney was the recipient of the College of Chaplains' distinguished service award in 1988. He had won a number of awards for amateur photography and had served as president of several area camera clubs, including the NIH Camera Club. His wife of 37 years, Virginia Kerney, died in 1984. His survivors include two daughters, Dr. Suzanne E. Kerney of Rockville and Sarah Gunnarson of Fairfax; a brother, Myron, of Rochester, N.Y., and a grandson. BERT WHITTINGTON Supreme Court Spokesman Bert Whittington, 76, who was the press spokesman of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1946 to 1973, died of cancer Jan. 15 at his home in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Mr. Whittington was a native of Mount Vernon, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University. He worked for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida before moving to the Washington area during World War II. During the war, he worked for what is now United Press International here. He had coached youth baseball groups in Arlington before retiring to Florida in 1973. His marriage to the former Frances Lance ended in divorce. Survivors include his companion, Shirley McLain, of Pembroke Pines; a son, Leslie, of Ottawa, Canada; a daughter, Susan Whittington of Seattle, and a grandson. MARY C. ARSENAULT Capitol Hill Hospital Nursing Official Mary C. Arsenault, 65, a registered nurse who was a nursing official at Capitol Hill Hospital, died there Jan. 13. A spokesman for District police said that she died as a result of injuries she received when she was attacked by a patient on Nov. 3. The attack, with a metal pole, was unprovoked, police said. The spokesman said that a 58-year-old Northeast Washington man has been charged in connection with the incident. At the time of her death, Mrs. Arsenault was assistant head nurse on the night shift in the hospital's intensive care unit, and had worked at the hospital since 1974. Before that, she had worked at Prince George's General Hospital from 1966 to 1974, and Providence Hospital from 1954 to 1966. Mrs. Arsenault, who had lived in this area since the early 1950s, was a native of Dillon, Mont., and had lived in Cheverly for the past 30 years. She was a 1944 graduate of the St. Luke's Hospital nursing school in Boise, Idaho. She was a member of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Cheverly and the Critical Care Nurses Association. Her husband, David J. Arsenault, whom she married in 1944, died in 1978. Her survivors include five sons, David Jr., of Huntingdon, Pa., Joseph F., of Mitchellville, Md., John P., of Laurel, James D., of Beltsville, and Christopher, of New York City; two daughters, Janet L. Cox of Oxford, Ohio, and Judith A. Schutz of New York City, and 11 grandchildren. LON HERMAN THOMAS CIA Documents Analyst Lon Herman Thomas, 76, a retired handwriting and questioned documents expert for the Central Intelligence Agency, died of emphysema Jan. 13 at a hospital in Chandler, Ariz. He lived in Sun Lakes, Ariz. Mr. Thomas, who lived in Arlington before moving to Texas in 1976 and to Arizona in 1979, was born in Mount Vernon, Tex., and attended the University of Texas. He was a member of the Texas Rangers during the 1930s. He moved to the Washington area in the early 1940s and joined the Secret Service, where he was assigned to guard the president's son, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. He transferred to the CIA when it was established in 1947. He retired in 1970 and later was a freelance consultant. He testified before the Warren Commission -- the body that investigated the death of President John F. Kennedy -- on the authenticity of a diary kept by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was accused of killing Kennedy. Mr. Thomas was a Mason and a member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association for Retired Secret Service Agents, and Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington. His first wife, Bobbie Lee Bennett Thomas, died in 1977. Survivors include his wife, the former Annette Seadorf of Sun Lakes; two children by his first marriage, Charles Herman Thomas of Valley Forge, Pa., and Lizabeth Ann Walters Gifford of Gilroy, Calif.; three brothers; two sisters; five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.