Samuel B. Ethridge, 76, a former National Education Association official who had worked for the racial integration of state teacher organizations during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, died Jan. 14 at Washington Hospital Center. He had diabetes.
He joined the NEA in 1964 as an assistant secretary for field studies for its professional rights and responsibilities commission. He later became a special assistant to the NEA's executive director, a post he held when he retired in 1984.
During his years with the association, he is credited with persuading fellow officials to adopt a more aggressive approach on school desegregation and advocating equal rights for black teachers.
In 1968 he was named head of the NEA's newly created Center for Human Rights, which developed minority and women's leadership programs, established state and local human relations committees and organized conferences on public education issues. He also served as the NEA's link to prominent civil rights leaders.
When high numbers of black teachers in southern states began losing their jobs because of school desegregation, Mr. Ethridge decried what he said was the discrimination in school systems to reassign minority teachers.
He staged news conferences to draw attention to the teachers' plight and urged the NEA to provide them with legal assistance.
Mr. Ethridge, who came to the Washington area in 1964, was an Alabama native. He was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II. A 1948 English graduate of Howard University, he received a master's degree in education from the University of Cincinnati.
Before coming to the Washington area, he held jobs including assistant director for intergroup relations in the national office of the March of Dimes in New York, worker for the United Negro College Fund in Texas and UNICEF regional director in Atlanta.
Mr. Ethridge had served on the executive committees of both Reading Is Fundamental and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change. He was a member of the Prometheans and the Kings and Queens Bridge Club, Washington Bridge Unit.
Survivors include his wife, Cordia B. Baylor Ethridge of Washington; three sons, Samuel, of Oxon Hill, Sherman, of Cheverly, and Steve, of Washington; a daughter, Camille Ethridge of Washington; a brother, Edsell Etheridge of Birmingham; a sister, Ida Taylor of Dayton, Ohio; seven grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.