This coming Tuesday, Feb. 21, scientist, and teacher Warren Gamaliel Dorsey will be the topic of the Historical Society of Carroll County's popular Box Lunch Talk series. Dorsey is a celebrated Carroll County native son who rose above poverty and segregation to become an author, a patent holder, a microbiologist at Fort Detrick in Frederick and later in life a teacher and school principal.
According to information provided by the Historical Society, "96-year-old Warren Dorsey, the grandson of a slave, grew up poor in Sykesville during the 1920s and '30s. [On Tuesday, local historian] Jack White will conduct a casual interview with Warren to discuss his slave grandmother, his parents, and the many challenges he overcame during his struggle to educate himself and escape poverty, as chronicled in Jack's book, 'In Carrie's Footprints.'"
Last year, on March 21, 2016, I had the pleasure of spending the evening with good friends at the 24th annual Human Relations Commission awards dinner to honor the amazing life and work of Dorsey. As an aside, the Human Relations Commission has selected Rev. Marty Kuchma, pastor of St. Paul's United Church of Christ, as the 2017 Human Relations award recipient which will be presented at the annual dinner March 27.
Dorsey worked as a scientist at Fort Detrick in Frederick until 1970. After earning his master's degree in education at Goucher College, he began a second career teaching in 1970. Before he retired in 1981 he was the principal at Carroll Manor Elementary School.
Last year, the keynote speaker for the Human Relations award was Patricia Greenwald, the volunteer coordinator of programs and restoration at the Historic Sykesville Colored Schoolhouse; where Dorsey first attended school in 1926 and frequently volunteers today.
According to Greenwald, Dorsey was born in 1920, "On a hilltop above the town, above the Patapsco River, and above the train tracks sits the farm of the Dorsey family. Ed and Carrie Dorsey had no opportunity for formal education. They had no financial worth. But they had determination to make a better life for their eight children …"
Dorsey was not expected to live at birth and was not given a name for several weeks until a fabled Carroll County mysterious stranger, "Professor Lee," stopped by the house and named him after President Warren G. Harding. "Named for the man many call the worst president in American history," said Greenwald. "But, little Warren Gamaliel surpassed the record of his namesake, beating the odds a second time."
Dorsey walked great distances to attend the segregated schools of Carroll County. After his start at the Sykesville Colored School, "Halfway through the fifth grade, pupils in the upper grades were sent away from the Sykesville Schoolhouse. They had to walk four miles each way to a two-room schoolhouse in Johnsville. While transportation was provided to the white schools, it was not available for children of color …"
By hard work and perseverance, Dorsey continued his studies at the Robert Moton School in Westminster and later at Morgan State College. At Morgan his interest turned to microbiology. After graduating as the salutatorian of his class in 1942, Dorsey served in World War II in the U.S. Army.
"After his retirement in 1982, Dorsey has continued a life of service to his family, community, and St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Sykesville, the church Warren had attended in his youth," said Greenwald.
The talk begins promptly at noon Feb. 21 in Grace Hall, Grace Lutheran Church; 21 Carroll Street, Westminster. For more information, call the society at 410-848-6494 x200.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at email@example.com.