The Rev. Wilburt R. Golden, who had two careers as a pastor and city public schools educator, died Wednesday of complications from dementia at St. Agnes Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 83.
“He captured the essence of being what a good teacher is and was a big part of what made Mergenthaler a great school,” said Gwendolyn Neale, who taught music at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School from 1983 to 1998. “He was stern and very knowledgeable, and his students were motivated by him. When you went to Wilburt’s class, you went to learn.”
Wilburt R. Golden, the son of Minnie Bell Golden, a maid, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and later moved to Baltimore, where he graduated in 1955 from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
Mr. Golden earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 from Morgan State University and a bachelor’s degree in history from what is now Loyola University Maryland and a master’s degree in 1973 in history from Loyola. He obtained a second master’s degree in theology in 1990 from St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Roland Park.
While at Morgan, he met and fell in love with a fellow student, Peggy Marie Cornish of Cambridge, whom he married in 1963.
He began more than three decades in city public schools in 1963, teaching at Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School, Northern High School, Lake Clifton High School and Southwestern High School.
When Mr. Golden was on the faculty of Northern, he updated the Black history curriculum to reflect the era of the civil rights movement, “changes that were not accepted without controversy,” said his son, Keith Lamont Golden of Ellicott City.
In 1979, he joined the faculty of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, where he taught a criminal law and justice course that was an “extremely popular course,” his son wrote in a biographical profile of his father.
“He was passionate about teaching young Black students to understand, navigate and remain free from the complex American justice system,” he wrote. “He had a big impact on his students. He inspired them to be better and rise above challenging circumstances with his laid-back, yet no-nonsense approach.”
“He was an extraordinary no-nonsense teacher who went above and beyond just being a teacher,” Ms. Cephas said. “He was a mentor, someone you could confide in and get advice from. He made you want to be a better person and he inspired so many. People talk about how he changed their lives. He made learning fun for everybody and doing better.”
“He was a shining example of what a good teacher is and was one of our best,” Ms. Neale said. “His advice to his students was, ‘Straighten yourself up, do right, and be a good worker.’”
At Mervo, Mr. Golden was also known as Tiger, and at the time of his retirement in 1994, a news article in Tech, the school newspaper, said he considered the implementation of the law course his “greatest accomplishment.”
“His love for the law and education is always evident in his enthusiastic teaching methods that include his list of classroom regulations known as the ‘Golden Rules.’ Golden maintains this philosophy of education: ‘All students can learn, and students will learn if the correct approach is taken. Teachers must be compassionate and patient when working with students.’”
He also said in the article that the origin of the nickname Tiger was a “trade secret,” and that they can “interpret it to be what they choose it to be.”
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After leaving public education in 1994, Mr. Golden became pastor of the First Church of the Brethren in Gwynn Oak, a position he held until stepping down in 2005. “His faith remained of paramount importance to him for the remainder of his life,” his son wrote.
Mr. Golden and his wife enjoyed the outdoors and traveled widely. They were particularly fond of the Rocky Mountains, both in the U.S. and Canada. He also liked spending time at his home near Patapsco Valley State Park.
His wife, Dr. Peggy C. Golden, at her death in 2006 was assistant deputy superintendent for Baltimore County Public Schools’ Division of Special Services.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, plans for a memorial service to be held in July are incomplete.