Joseph A. Boston Jr. had an easy manner as he strolled the halls of Frederick Douglass High School. He looked authoritative but approachable. Stern but friendly. Important but humble.
For 25 years, Mr. Boston, 73, who died Sunday of cancer at his Northwest Baltimore home, exhibited all of those qualities to students he taught at the West Baltimore high school.
"He was the kind of person who would always give you a straight, to-the-point, well-thought-out answer up front," said Michael Coleman, a teacher and one of Mr. Boston's former students.
"Mr. Boston's answer may not have been what you wanted to hear, but it was honest. He'd also go to bat for you, which is something teachers don't always do."
From 1953 to 1978, Mr. Boston taught in the school's print shop and served as head of Douglass' industrial arts department. One of his teaching methods was to have students print the poems and writings of famous authors.
"It was just another way to get students to read literature, like doing several things at once," Mr. Coleman said. "He wanted the printers to be professional, so you had to read carefully what you were going to print. You learned the literature and you learned the printing."
"He had a strong sense of wanting to help students," said Wallace Baden, a former co-worker.
Mr. Boston also taught driver's education -- which at times was unsettling.
"I think like any driving teacher, he went into it with the approach that the students wanted to learn to drive and would listen to him," said Sharon Middleton, a former student.
But, she said, sometimes he looked a little apprehensive as he got into the car.
"I wouldn't call it fear, but more like he was thinking, 'I hope this kid doesn't try anything stupid.' "
A jazz fan, Mr. Boston learned the current music as a driving teacher, said his daughter, Carole Boston Weatherford of High Point, N.C.
"They'd [the students] get in and change the [radio] station. They liked to hear James Brown and the Temptations as they drove. But he cultivated a taste for it."
A native of the small community of Copperville on the Eastern Shore, Mr. Boston moved with his family to Baltimore when he was a child. He graduated from Douglass High School in 1942 and West Virginia State College in 1950. He received a master's degree from Loyola College in 1974.
He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 and began his teaching career in 1950, working at two elementary schools before going to Douglass in 1953. After leaving Douglass in 1978, he served as coordinator of the city school system's industrial arts department until he retired in 1980.
In 1972, he bought back the family's property on the Eastern Shore and returned there often each year to farm.
"He'd always come back with strawberries and vegetables that he'd give to the neighbors," said Anne Emery, a longtime friend and president of the Ashburton Area Association, of which Mr. Boston was a member.
An avid gardener, Mr. Boston maintained a flower garden at his Baltimore home and was honored twice by Baltimore Beautiful Inc. for the landscape design.
Mr. Boston was a longtime member of Union Memorial United Methodist Church, 2500 Harlem Ave. in West Baltimore, where services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday.
In addition to his wife of 45 years, the former Carolyn Virginia Whitten, and his daughter, he is survived by a son, Joseph "Alex" Boston III of Pakistan; a brother, Milton Boston of Cambridge, Mass.; a sister, Mary B. Lee of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.
Pub Date: 4/29/97