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Roy L. Pope, longtime city school principal who advocated discipline and school uniforms, dies

Roy Pope was a Baltimore City educator who headed Pimlico Junior High School.
Roy Pope was a Baltimore City educator who headed Pimlico Junior High School. (Handout)

Roy L. Pope, a retired Baltimore City schools principal who stressed academics and advocated for school uniforms, died of congestive heart failure March 17 at his Columbia home. He was 89.

Born in Nansemond County, Va., he was the son of James Pope, a farmer, and his wife, California, a homemaker and member of the clergy.

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“His mother was determined to have her children become contributing citizens who received the best education possible,” said his wife, Vergie C. Pope,

“At an early age, Roy showed his love for learning by excelling in the public schools in his county,” she said. “After graduating from high school, he moved to Baltimore to live with relatives and attend what is now Morgan State University.”

He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a master’s degree at Morgan, and later took courses at the University of Maryland, College Park, Loyola University Maryland and George Washington University.

While he was attending Morgan State, a friend introduced Mr. Pope to Vergie Clanton. They married Nov. 21, 1953, and resided in Govans for many years before moving to Columbia..

Mr. Pope joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and served as chairman of the special education department at Clifton Park Junior High School. He was later vice principal at Booker T. Washington Junior High School and at Walbrook High School.

“He was an outspoken member of the faculty at Clifton Park,” said Milton A. Dugger Jr., a former teacher and past member of the city’s Board of Education. “He was tough as a disciplinarian, and he had ideas about what steps should be taken.

“He felt that students should not be dressing for the street corner when they were coming to school for the serious business of education,” said Mr. Dugger.

Mr. Pope served at Walbrook High School as an interim principal when its students and faculty were transferred to the old Southwestern High School while Walbrook underwent asbestos removal.

The blending of the two sets of students produced friction. A 1990 article in The Sun recounted that he thought he heard firecrackers — but a student had been struck by gunfire.

“Hoping to cast out fear, Pope smiled and joked with some students and chased two others who appeared to be on the verge of fighting,” said the Sun’s article. “He silenced a noisy cafeteria into study, as he usually does, but with emphasis on this day that an atmosphere of learning would prevail.”

After his time at Walbrook, he moved to Pimlico Middle School as principal. He remained for a decade and retired in 2000.

“He and his staff were significantly successful in improving the performance level of the students in their charge,” his wife said, “Pimlico was awarded the School Performance Recognition Award from the Maryland State Board of Education.”

Mrs. Pope said her husband had rewarding experiences during his career and found that working directly with children was most gratifying.

“He saw his former students become successful adults, parents, contributing citizens and scholars,” she said.

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Mr. Pope appeared on the show “Good Morning America” and discussed the benefits of students wearing uniforms. At the time, Pimlico Middle School became a pioneering school in the uniform-only public school movement.

“It was an idea conceived by him and his staff because some of the students were feeling left out if they didn’t have the latest styles,” his wife said.

Mr. Pope became active as a Sunday school teacher, deacon and chairman of trustees at Miracle Deliverance Worship Center in Walbrook. He was named a bishop at the church.

After retiring in 2000, Mr. Pope accepted a calling to organize and serve as pastor for the Spirit and Truth Worship Center on Wesley Avenue in Catonsville. He regularly preached.

As a younger man he had managed a community softball team that competed at Druid Hill Park. He also managed a rhythm and blues band.

Services for Mr. Pope will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Columbia Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road, Columbia.

In addition to his wife of 64 years, a retired Social Security Administration operations manager, survivors include two daughters, Bonnie Pope of Columbia and Melinda Pope of College Park; eight brothers, Alex Pork, Griffin Pork, Malachia Pork, Kin Pork, John Pork, Howard Pork and Jeffrey Pork, all of Virginia, and Ellerson Pork of Arkansas.

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