Dr. Harry C. Rhodes

Dr. Harry C. Rhodes (Baltimore Sun / July 14, 2014)

Harry C. Rhodes, former Queen Anne's County schools superintendent who oversaw the peaceful integration of that county's schools and who played a pivotal role in the community college movement in the state, died Monday of heart failure at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center in Easton.

He was 99.

"Harry was one of the all-time characters in Maryland education. He was quite a guy," said Robert Y. Dubel, a longtime friend, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992.

"He also deserves a great deal of credit with the establishment of the community college system in Maryland," said Dr. Dubel. "He was one of the early believers and advocates of what were then called junior colleges."

The son of farmers Louis Kennard Rhodes and Florence McConnor Rhodes, Harry Clement Rhodes was a seventh-generation native of Queenstown, where he was born and raised on the family farm.

After graduating in 1931 from Centreville High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1935 from Washington College. He later earned a master's degree in 1948 and his Ph.D. in education in 1960, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Rhodes did additional graduate studies at Columbia University, University of Chicago, University of Delaware, the Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University and Goucher College.

Dr. Rhodes began his teaching career in 1935 at Poolesville School in Montgomery County, and five years later, was the school's vice principal.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and served aboard minesweepers in the South Atlantic and Pacific until being discharged in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant.

After teaching for a year at Gaithersburg High School, he returned to Poolesville School where he was principal from 1947 to 1952, when he was named superintendent of Queen Anne's County schools.

It was during Dr. Rhodes' tenure as county school superintendent that his steady hand and leadership moved the system from a segregated to an integrated one without any major incidents.

"Harry was an amazing man and knew how to bring people together. The African-Americans loved him, and what he did in Queen Anne's County regarding integration became a role model for the Eastern Shore," said Dr. Dubel.

He was also responsible for consolidating four small high schools in 1966 into Queen Anne's County High School.

His years as a superintendent coincided with the coming of community colleges to Maryland.

"Back in those early days, school boards and superintendents were the backbone of the community college movement before it became cumbersome and they divested themselves," said Dr. Dubel.

Dr. Rhodes was a protege of Thomas G. Pullen Jr., who was a seminal figure in Maryland education and served as state superintendent of schools from 1942 to 1964.

In the post-World War II years, Dr. Pullen championed the establishment of community colleges, public libraries and public television, and expanded the public school system to a 12-year program. He later served as president of the University of Baltimore from 1964 to 1969, and died a decade later.

"Dr. Pullen and Harry really promoted the junior college movement, which in those days was called grades 12 and 13," said Dr. Dubel.

In 1967, Dr. Rhodes was appointed dean of continuing education at Anne Arundel Community College, "where he played a key role in the development of that institution," said Dr. Dubel.

Dr. Rhodes remained in that job until retiring in 1973.