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Published: Saturday, 6/9/2012

Lindsey Whitehead, 1934-2012: Educator taught civil rights at Lourdes

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lindsey Whitehead, who after careers in the military and criminal justice took on two others -- college educator and counselor -- died Monday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. He was 78.

Mr. Whitehead of South Toledo developed pneumonia recently, but he had leukemia for several years, his son Chauncey said. He was a part-time faculty member the last 14 years at Lourdes University and taught through spring semester although he'd been receiving blood transfusions.

"He was that kind of guy," his son said. "He told me it was his students that kept him going and his grandkids."

He was honored by his students at a Black History Month gathering this year, according to a posting after his death on Lourdes' Facebook page.

"They spoke of his influence on them, of appreciating his professionalism and authenticity, and of the power of his gentlemanly presence," the Facebook posting said.

Mr. Whitehead taught classes about the civil rights movement both at Lourdes and, earlier, at Owens Community College, where he was a director of counseling.

"He felt it was important for young people to understand that everything in this country is somewhat directly related to race and how you deal with it," his son said. "He wanted them to see how far we've come and how we're connected to one another."

Mr. Whitehead offered multiple perspectives: He was black and grew up in the segregated South. He came of age in the Air Force not long after the armed forces were integrated and was stationed around the United States and in Europe, with a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

The Lourdes Facebook page said "… may the Lourdes community rejoice in the many ways he shared with his students the reality of the civil rights movement. He taught the facts but enriched them with his own experience and patient reflection."

Mr. Whitehead was at a rally in February, 2008, at Savage Arena to see presidential candidate Barack Obama "because it's history, and I wanted to witness it in person," Mr. Whitehead told The Blade then, adding that he never thought a black man would be president in his lifetime.

Yet for him, Mr. Obama "transcends race, gender, age, all of the things you would consider obstacles to America becoming what it could possibly be," Mr. Whitehead told The Blade.

He looked for the best in his students, his daughter Melaletia said.

"He wanted to always make you believe in yourself. He believed in me before I was ever secure myself," his daughter said. "What he got out of teaching was helping."

He was a technical sergeant when he retired from the Air Force in 1974 and returned to Toledo. He became a counselor for the Ohio bureau of vocational rehabilitation and in 1979 received a presidential certificate of outstanding community achievement from the Carter administration for his work with veterans. He later was director of the Lucas County adult probation department.

"Dad was always a man of God. He never judged people by their status," said his son Markus, a probation officer at Toledo Municipal Court. "He always looked at a person's character."

He was born March 1, 1934, in Dublin, Ga., to Johnnie Mae and Claude Whitehead. He began high school in Dublin, but he wanted more from his schooling and his mother sent him to live with his sister Azaree in Miami. He was a 1953 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School there and was drafted not long after.

Mr. Whitehead received a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and master's degrees in public administration and in education and counseling from the University of Toledo.

He had been a trustee of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio.

Surviving are his wife, Aleada, whom he married April 10, 1957; sons, Lindsey A., Markus, and Chauncey; daughters, Valensia Hall and Melaletia Jones; brothers, Claudel and Connell; sisters, Maude Reese and Evelyn Lewis; eight grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Services are to be today at 11 a.m. in Friendship Baptist Church, where he was a member. Arrangements are by the Newcomer Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Leukemia Foundation.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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