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Catonsville’s Ebersole had a big impact on education | READER COMMENTARY

Margaret Williams, the aunt of both Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Director of Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks Barry Williams, was the lead plaintiff in a 1930s court case to allow black students to attend Catonsville High School. Margaret Williams' case lost in court, but was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education. Here, in 2011, Delegate Jones and Mr. Williams stand in front of the building that previously housed Catonsville High School. (Nicole Martyn/Baltimore Sun Media).
Margaret Williams, the aunt of both Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Director of Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks Barry Williams, was the lead plaintiff in a 1930s court case to allow black students to attend Catonsville High School. Margaret Williams' case lost in court, but was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education. Here, in 2011, Delegate Jones and Mr. Williams stand in front of the building that previously housed Catonsville High School. (Nicole Martyn/Baltimore Sun Media). (Nicole Martyn / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Reading about the recent passing of Dr. Benjamin P. Ebersole, a well respected and progressive educator, brought back memories of one of the few advocates that African-American Baltimore County Public school students and parents had in the 1960s.

Growing up in Catonsville, I attended an all-Black elementary school, The Banneker School. In 7th grade, I attended Catonsville Junior High School, where one of my earliest white friends was Dr. Ebersole’s son, Bradley. Brad and I were close friends all throughout junior high, high school and college. Brad went on to have a distinguished career in higher education, culminating as president of Washington State Community College. Through this friendship, not only did I get to know Dr. Ebersole, his wife Shirley and Brad’s younger brothers, but my parents found an advocate who would not hesitate to correct the Baltimore County school system’s tendency to track African-American students away from advanced programs and classes.

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His efforts, for which I and members of my family are grateful, have borne generational fruit. Discovering now that Dr. Ebersole was a roommate with the first African-American student at Elizabethtown College in 1947 (and that they remained friends for many years thereafter), says much about the man and his views on social justice and racial equality. Dr. Benjamin Ebersole’s legacy, in part, was to a “a more equitable trajectory” for the educational future for many.

Martin P. Welch, Baltimore

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The writer is a 1971 graduate of Catonsville High School.

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