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Memorial honors former principal

November 25, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Former students, fellow teachers and administrators gathered Sunday afternoon at the former North Street School to honor the man who walked those halls for 37 years as principal.

"There are unsung heroes in our midst - such is the case with Charles E. Hodges," said Elizabeth Morgan, Washington County Public Schools superintendent. "He was not only a fine educator but a talented and respected member of his church and his community."

Morgan's comments came during the dedication of a $2,000 bronze and granite monument just outside the doors of the school on North Avenue, now known as the Martin Luther King Center.

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Robert Johnson, the keynote speaker, met Hodges in 1949-50 when he did his student teaching at the then all-black North Street School. Impressed with Hodges during that experience, Johnson took a job at the school after he graduated from college.

"Mr. Hodges was a disciplinarian, but he was always pleasant and helpful," Johnson said. "And there wasn't anything he couldn't do - he taught, directed plays and coached ball games when needed."

Johnson said he credits Hodges with making him a better person and a better educator. Now retired, Johnson went on to teach at North Hagerstown High School and was vice principal at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

Also speaking Sunday was Maryland Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who knew Hodges' reputation, if not the man himself.

"This memorial says good things about him and his good work," Munson said.

Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said he knew Hodges and remembered when his high school basketball team played at North Street.

"The Mayor and Council were happy to make a contribution to this memorial," Breichner said.

During the summer, a group of community leaders and some former students launched the special project to erect the memorial in Hodges' honor more than 27 years after his death.

Bill Mason, president of The Clique Club of Hagerstown, said then it was long overdue.

"It's been a blessing. We worked very hard to honor him."

Hodges took over as principal at North Street in 1926. He added grades 11 and 12 to the school shortly after his arrival, and the first full-fledged graduating class was two young women who received their diplomas in 1928.

After leaving North Street in 1963, Hodges became the first black administrator in Washington County schools, serving as supervisor of junior high schools until his retirement in 1968.

Hodges died in 1975 at the age of 74.

Organized in 1993, Clique Club members came together out of concern for the welfare of children and the community. Since then, the group has undertaken a number of community activities designed to enhance the quality of life in Hagerstown and Washington County, Mason said.

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