Daniel C. Brewington, a veteran Baltimore public schools educator who protested discrimination while serving in the Army during World War II, died Feb. 24 from congestive heart failure at Arbor Terrace Senior Living in Lanham.
The longtime Northwest Baltimore resident was 95.
Daniel Cornelius Brewington was the eldest of four sons of Joseph C. Brewington, a janitor and caterer, and Mary G. Brewington, a housekeeper. He was born in Baltimore and raised on Brentwood Avenue.
He was a 1939 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School.
In 1943, he was married to Ethel L. Brown. That same year, while attending his senior year at what was then Coppin State Teachers College, he was drafted into the Army.
His early Army career was marred by segregation. In October 1943, while stationed in Orlando, Fla., Mr. Brewington and several other soldiers in his unit “decided to protest the segregation laws of the military and the State of Florida,” he wrote in a biographical sketch.
“We chose the post movie theatre and its segregated seating as the means to demand equality in how the races were treated,” he wrote. By sitting in the middle of the section reserved for whites, they created a furor that caused them to be brought before the post commander.
“Our argument was simple: ‘You cannot ask young men to possibly die for their country while treating them as second class citizens.’ The seating arrangement was reversed with no reprimands issued,” he wrote, though he also added, “We never returned to see any movies, however.”
During the war, he was stationed in Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany as part of the 1961st Engineer Aviation Depot Co., nicknamed the “Pencil Pushers.”
The company consisted of “200 black enlisted men, all of whom were either high school graduates, college students or college graduates, led by five white commissioned officers,” he wrote. The unit “had the responsibility of receiving, recording, storing and dispensing aviation supplies and equipment. These supplies — aircraft landing mats, bridge materials and heavy equipment — were used to construct bridges and airplane landing fields,” Mr. Brewington wrote.
The materials were the type used to build the bridge that combat troops used to cross the Rhine and enter Germany.
He wrote of his World War II experiences that he was “extremely proud” that his unit “was given the opportunity to perform tasks very rare for African American soldiers at the time.”
After being discharged at war’s end with the rank of staff sergeant, Mr. Brewington returned to Coppin, where in 1946 he obtained a bachelor’s degree in education. He later received a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He began his teaching career in 1946 at the old Male and Primary School No. 5 at North Broadway and Ashland Avenue, while attending the University of Maryland Law School at night
“As a result of the discrimination he saw while serving three-and-a-half years in the Army, he is interested in civil rights,” reported the Afro-American in 1946.
“He never finished law school because he was working as well as trying to raise a family,” said a daughter, Dr. Carla B. Ford of Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Mr. Brewington later taught at Rutland and Columbus elementary schools, then was named assistant principal of Louisa May Alcott Elementary School. He was affectionately called “Mr. B” by his students.
In 1963, he participated in the historic March on Washington.
Before retiring in 1977, he had been principal of Malcolm X, Liberty and Langston Hughes elementary schools.
“He was a very scholarly and quiet man,” said his daughter, Dr. Ford. “He was a highly regarded authority figure, yet thoughtful and reflective. That’s how people viewed him.”
“He was also highly organized and methodical,” she added. “I learned that from my father.”
After retiring, Mr. Brewington and his wife began spending winters in the Caribbean, and over many years they had visited St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and finally eastern Puerto Rico.
Mr. Brewington was an inveterate tenpin bowler, and also enjoyed gardening. An avid non-fiction reader, he especially enjoyed reading about history.
He was also a student of hurricanes. “He was always interested in the physical and natural sciences,” his daughter said. “In a book, he recorded every hurricane or major storm, including longitude, latitude and severity that crossed the Atlantic.”
He was a longtime member of Sharp Street United Methodist Church, where he served as senior usher and president of the board of trustees.
Services are private.
In addition to his wife of 74 years, also a former city school educator, and his daughter, Mr. Brewington is survived by two other daughters, Dana B. Stebbins of Mitchellville and Debra B. Gittens of Washington; a brother, Edward W. Brewington of Baltimore; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.